The high level gender equality management group, chaired by Ms Josephine Feehily, Revenue Commissioner, produced three separate documents relating to revised policy and procedures for addressing gender equality in the Civil Service, first, a new gender equality policy for the Civil Service; second, a guide for Government Departments on affirmative action, Making it Happen; and third, an outline of mechanisms for the allocation of responsibility, accountability and monitoring in respect of gender equality.
In June 2000, the Government approved the new gender equality policy in principle and directed that consultations with the staff unions on the implementation of the new policy should begin. Also, the Taoiseach announced that the Government had set a target of one third of posts at assistant principal level to be filled by women within five years. A final draft of the text is currently being considered by the staff unions. These consultations will be concluded shortly, allowing the policy to be formally approved under the conciliation and arbitration scheme, before final consideration by the Government.
I hope that the new gender equality policy will be announced in the summer. In anticipation of it, Departments are asked to adopt increasingly specific strategic objectives and equality goals, to be published as part of each Department's strategy statement, with a view to achieving the one third target at assistant principal level over the next five years, and to increasing the representation of women at all grades above that of assistant principal during the same period.
Research on gender imbalance in the Civil Service at HEO level and above, commissioned as part of the SMI process and published in 1999, showed that women were under-represented at senior management levels in the Civil Service and that progress towards a better balance of men and women in those grades had been minimal from 1987 to 1997. The report identified the under-representation of women in the assistant principal grade as a particular obstacle to the advancement of women to senior management levels within the Civil Service. The main research findings, together with a package of measures based on the recommendations in the report, were endorsed by the Government and were presented by the Taoiseach and myself at the launch of the current phase of the Strategic Management Initiative for the Civil Service in July 1999. A key element of these measures was the development and adoption of a new gender equality policy.