Gender Equality in the Northern Ireland Public Sector – a View from the Top

Prof Joan Ballantine, Dr Graeme Banks, Prof Kathryn Haynes, Dr Melina Manochin and Mr Tony Wall (Ulster)

The highly contentious issue of gender equality with regard to executive and non-executive director positions has received considerable attention in the context of the private sector. However, substantially less is known about gender equality issues at the senior levels of the public sector, including that of NI. While the limited statistics available for NI indicate that males dominate senior positions, there is a lack of data which enable an understanding of why this is the case. In this presentation we report on the final stage of an OFMDFM funded research project which involved 107 in-depth interviews with male and female current and aspiring executives, employed across the NI public sector. We report on the findings with respect to a number of themes including, gender culture, work life balance and promoting gender equality at senior levels. The presentation will conclude with recommendations to improve gender equality within the NI public sector. The research is timely given the recently published draft Programme for Government Framework 2016-21, which was surprisingly silent on the issue of gender equality in the workplace.