BELFAST, Northern Ireland, March 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --
The significant under representation of women at executive level in Northern Ireland's public sector was the focus of a three year research project (funded by OFMDFM) recently completed by the Ulster University Business School. During the comprehensive three stage study, data was collected from 143 organisations across the public sector, over 3,180 survey responses were analysed and 100+ in-depth interviews with current and aspiring executives were carried out.
According to Professor Joan Ballantine, Ulster University Business School, 'the highly important, and sometimes contentious issue of gender equality within executive and non-executive director positions has received considerable attention in the private sector to date. However, substantially less is known about gender equality issues at executive levels of the public sector, including that of N.I.'
The findings of the research reveal a significant degree of gender inequality among N.I. executive positions, with males and females holding 70.8% and 29.2% of all positions respectively. Despite this, males perceive that the gender composition within their organisation is less of an issue than females.
The study also identified large numbers of well-qualified females opting out of career progression to senior levels due to caring responsibilities for dependents, a long hours culture, an unsupportive work environment and a lack of flexible work arrangements. In addition, females also highlighted a range of barriers hindering their career progression including poor work life balance, exclusion from informal communication networks, a lack of awareness of organisational politics, few opportunities to work on challenging assignments and colleagues' negative reactions to flexible work arrangements.
A number of females interviewed suggested that while there has been a decline in the influence of the 'old boys' network' in N.I., there is still a macho, male dominated culture in some parts of the public sector. There is also a perception that female stereotyping exists at senior levels with females having to perform much better and continually prove themselves when compared to males.
While more work clearly needs to be done in terms of improving gender equality at senior levels of the N.I. public sector, a number of best practice cases were identified within Health, Education and Local Government.
Based on the findings, twelve recommendations have been identified and categorised under four key headings, namely strategic, policy, process and data analysis. Highlights include the implementation of targets for gender equality at senior levels; the identification of a Gender Champion at senior management level; the establishment of an Academy for developing professional executives/managers across the NI public sector; the development of a gender inclusive culture at organisations' senior management level; linking performance appraisal more clearly to career development; and ensuring that data on gender equality is regularly collected, analysed and published by OFMDFM.
Access research at: https://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/articles/ofmdfm-statistics-and-research
SOURCE Ulster University Business School