“Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies” - António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, Message on International Women’s Day 2017
In 2015, governments unanimously endorsed the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and, through its Goal 16 on “promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies” and Goal 5 on “ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment,” recognized the role of gender equality and inclusive public administration and institutions in achieving more peaceful, prosperous, equal and sustainable societies.
Public administration refers to the aggregate state-funded machinery, including agencies, policies and services, in charge of the management and implementation of laws, regulations and decisions of the government. It enables countries to implement national policies and programmes and is essential in driving sustainable development.
In many countries, public institutions continue to be male-dominated and patriarchal, perpetuating harmful, and sometimes violent, attitudes and practices. Although there is no global baseline on women’s participation in public administration, existing research from UNDP shows that women are under-represented, especially in leadership and decision-making roles. The available data suggests that women make up on average 45% of public administration, yet there is high variation of women’s participation across countries, ranging from 3% to 77%. The overall share of women in public administration is highest, on average, in OECD countries (55.1%), and lowest in the Arab States (35.9%). However, when looking at the share of women in decision-making positions in public administration, the highest average share is found in Latin America and the Caribbean (43.4%) and the lowest in Africa (25.1%). Moreover, just 20% of countries have reached parity (50%) in the share of women in decision-making positions of public administration.
Diversity, including equal access of women to leadership roles, is not only the right thing to do but also the most productive. A recent UNDP and McKinsey study found that female participation in public administration and in decision-making roles is positively correlated with economic development as well as gender equality in society. It also suggests that women’s equal participation and leadership creates conducive environment for a better and more effective government. These findings are reinforced by another recent study by the Wilson Center that concludes: “where there are more women in power, there is better governance, and where there is good governance, there are more women in power.”
This e-Discussion is a forum to promote a dialogue on the role of women in public administration and decision-making and exchange knowledge and good practices on ways to increase and strengthen women’s participation in public administration and decision-making and ensure public institutions are safe and free of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Please join the e-Discussion from 28 March to 19 April 2019. Women and men in politics and in public administration, national and local government representatives, civil society activists, experts, practitioners, and academia are invited to contribute with their experiences by answering to one or more of the below questions. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic.
- Data is essential in identifying trends and shape targeted and effective policy responses. What is the level of women’s participation in public administration in your country? What about women in senior management positions in public institutions?
- There are many barriers to women’s full and equal participation in public administration and leadership. For example, women in public administration often face sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Do women in public administration in your country face sexual harassment and/or gender-based violence? What are other barriers hindering women’s equal participation in leadership and decision-making roles in your country?
- What can be done to increase the equal and full participation of women, including young women, in public administration at all levels? What can be done to ensure public administration is free from sexual harassment and gender-based violence? Please share examples of good practices.
- Have women in public administration in your country used their position to advance sustainable development and peace? Please share examples.
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 Public Administration Reform: Practice Note. UNDP, 2004.
 GEPA Initiative Database. UNDP and University of Pittsburgh, 2019.
 A recent report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe revealed an alarming amount of sexual and psychological harassment/bullying targeting female staff of parliaments in Europe. 40.5% of those interviewed said that they had suffered acts of sexual harassment in their work and 50% had received comments of a sexual nature.