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Gender in the Australian Public Service

While women make up more than half of the Australian Pubic Service (APS), they remain underrepresented in senior leadership roles.

Balancing the Future: The Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19 (the Strategy) sets out actions to enable the APS to achieve gender equality across all leadership levels and business areas.

Driving a gender-balanced workforce requires flexibility, cultural change, and the recognition of equality as a business imperative. This includes supporting the work and caring responsibilities of men and women, and ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities to develop and to lead.

Women make up 58 per cent of the APS workforce. Women represent the majority of employees at the APS 1 to Executive Level 1 classifications and are most commonly employed at the APS 4 level.

The proportion of women employed at Executive Level 2, SES Band 1 and SES Band 2 classifications is increasing steadily, but declined at the Band 3 classification in 2016.

Proportion of women by classification, 2012 – 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 1.

In the 2016 APS agency survey, 29 agencies reported that their agency head was a woman, making up just 31 per cent of all agency heads. Forty-seven per cent of employees reporting directly to an agency head were women.

Women make up over 46 per cent of agency heads in smaller operational agencies but only 22.5 per cent of those in specialist agencies.

Agency heads – gender by agency function, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

Although the representation of women at higher levels has gradually increased over time, further work is required to ensure equal representation of women in more senior leadership positions.

The Strategy requires agencies to assess the gender balance of their leadership groups and implement measures to address any imbalance. These include setting gender equality targets across all leadership levels and developing or seeking access to programs that support the progression of women into senior leadership positions.

In line with the Strategy, agencies reported a range of different actions that were taken in 2015-16 to address gender inequality. These included:

unconscious bias training

redacting information in job applications to remove any indicators of gender

ensuring gender balance on interview panels

promoting/supporting flexible work arrangements for all staff.

Gender difference in employment classifications is just one element of workplace gender inequality. Another is the use of flexible working arrangements. These are available in most APS agencies, but are typically used more by women than by men.

In the 2016 APS employee census, 70 per cent of male respondents and 72 per cent of female respondents reported being satisfied with their ability to access and use flexible working arrangements. The census did not capture rates of use of flexible working arrangements.

Half of all APS agencies reported in the 2016 APS agency survey that they are measuring the take up of flexible work arrangements across the entire agency. A further 12 per cent reported that measurement is occurring in part of the agency.

Agencies were asked to describe any barriers to reporting the number of applications for flexible work arrangements processed in 2015-16. Reported barriers included:

many arrangements being made informally between staff and line managers

HR systems not having the capability to record flexible work arrangements

the different types of flexible arrangements that can be negotiated—for example, part time work arrangements can be monitored but compressed hours or working from home arrangements may not be monitored as easily.

Analysis of 2016 APS employee census results shows no significant difference between employee engagement scores for men and women.

Employee engagement by gender, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 3.

Women reported higher satisfaction than men with their remuneration. There is little variation between genders in satisfaction with non-monetary conditions.

Satisfaction with remuneration and non-monetary conditions by gender, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 4.


Last reviewed: 
3 July 2018