Lack of women at top level in Department of Finance ‘unacceptable’

Maternity leave a ‘sliver of entire working life’ and should not be penalised - Donohoe

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe acknowledged there is ‘a lot of progress to make’ to address the disparity between men and women in the most senior positions. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe acknowledged there is ‘a lot of progress to make’ to address the disparity between men and women in the most senior positions. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The gender gap at the top in the Department of Finance is “unacceptable”, Paschal Donohoe has admitted.

He acknowledged there is “a lot of progress to make” to address the disparity between men and women in the most senior positions there, but said he expected that to change over time.

Mr Donohoe said there was greater equality at principal officer and assistant principal officer level and he expected to see that over time at the highest level.

He pointed out that women were in senior positions in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, at a level “above the Civil Service average”.

But he agreed that women at all grades who take time out to have children are paying a penalty in terms of promotion, status and pay.

He said the time taken for maternity leave and, to a far lesser extent for paternity leave, “is a sliver of an entire working life” and all Government departments are working to “ensure nobody is penalised in any way for taking maternity leave”.

Mr Donohoe, who is Minister in both departments, was responding to Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton who said the cliché of “male, pale and stale” came immediately to mind in relation to the Department of Finance.

During question time in the Dáil, the former tánaiste said in Finance “the men occupy a disproportionate amount of the senior positions while women are congregated in the lower pay scales and grades”.

Seven seniors are male

Figures released by the Minister show that four of the nine most senior positions in Public Expenditure and Reform are held by women, which is above the average for the Civil Service.

But “the seven equivalent positions in the Department of Finance are all currently occupied by men”, he said.

The statistics also show that women make up 54 per cent of all staff in Public Expenditure and Reform and just under 43 per cent in Finance.

There is a clear majority of women (70.9 per cent in Public Expenditure and 62 per cent in Finance) working at clerical officer and executive officer grades.

Women make up 47 per cent of those serving in the management roles of principal officer and assistant principal officer in Public Expenditure and 39 per cent in Finance.

Mr Donohoe said a target of 50:50 gender balance in new appointments at senior level is now in place. The ‘best person for the job’ approach is still in place but where candidates are of equal merit, then priority is given to a female candidate.

Ms Burton, referring to her own time in government, said she knew what it was like to sit in Cabinet where only four of about 18 people were female.

She added that for every extra woman appointed “one changes the conversation and the lived experience of those who are making the decisions”.

The Minister said the division of leadership positions between men and women in Finance “is not where it needs to be” and he agreed with Ms Burton that “the leadership of our Government departments needs to reflect the diversity and strength of our country”.

He said in Finance “we clearly have a lot of progress to make in that at senior level” but not in Public Expenditure.