HC Deb 01 July 1996 vol 280 cc279-83W
Mr. Donohoe

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what measures her Department has implemented during the last 12 months to encourage the promotion of women into senior positions with his Department and its executive agencies; and what progress her Department has made in encouraging the promotion of women over the last five years. [31546]

Mrs. Angela Knight

The information in respect of the Chancellor's Departments and agencies is as follows:

HM Treasury

As part of a package of measures designed to ensure equality of opportunity within the department, the Treasury has targets to measure the progress of women and ethnic minority staff. Amongst these targets are objectives (i) to achieve a similar pattern of promotion for men and women which is related to their representation in the 'feeder grade'; (ii) to increase the proportion of women in the higher grades over time; and (iii) in the longer term, for women to be represented in the most senior grades in the same proportions as they are recruited into the Treasury in the 'feeder grades'.

While all promotions are made on the basis of merit, further measures to encourage the promotion of women include: action to address the perceived 'long hours culture' within the Treasury; the introduction of an open system of postings within the Department with the presumption that all posts are open to alternative working patterns, except where a valid case is made to the contrary; and flexible working hours made available to more than one third of the staff. The Treasury is also a member of Opportunity 2000.

Customs and Excise

The Department has implemented the following measures during the last 12 months to encourage the promotion of women into senior positions. The board led by Chairman Valerie Strachan is committed to developing professionalism and responsibility. The Departmental strategy includes. investing in and supporting the continuous development of our people as a key element". Agreeing clear personal objectives and performance measures and rewarding people according to their contribution is another key factor. This links in with the new appraisal system and revised competencies. These serve to ensure that promotion is on merit. The new appointments system has removed the seniority requirement. This is particularly important to women who may have had a break in their service for family reasons. Training needs are being met to equip people with skills and knowledge which also enhances development. Mrs. Strachan, the chairman, is seen as a role model for women within the organisation and outside. She supports the Department's commitment to Opportunity 2000 and has recently agreed to be a member of the target team which plays a vital role in determining the overall direction of Opportunity 2000.

The Department has also made the following progress in encouraging the promotion of women over the last five years.

Balancing work and family Providing a wide range of options to help women return to work after the birth of a child or as their family grows up;. A full range of non-traditional working patterns is now in place;. Career break and domestic absence schemes.

This kind of flexibility allows women to plan their careers around their individual needs and family responsibilities. Child care provision, including workplace nurseries, buying nursery places and play schemes. Reimbursement of extra child care and possibly elder care expenses incurred when attending residential training courses. Positive action training. Membership of key organisations like Opportunity 2000, and demonstrating our commitment to the membership by setting forecast figures for women at higher executive officer level and above by the years 1996 and 2000. Establishing a comprehensive equal opportunities policy and putting into place strategies and practices which make those opportunities a reality.

Inland Revenue

During the last 12 months, the Inland Revenue has taken the following measures to encourage the promotion of women into senior positions: As part of "Lifting the Barriers"—an initiative aimed at meeting the Department's strategic objective to increase the representation of women and ethnic minority people—at senior levels:. Diversity in Action" a new advanced equal opportunities training course for senior managers was introduced; Springboard", a three-month personal development course for women, was piloted; Mentoring schemes were piloted. A career tracking project which looked at the careers of men and women who entered the Department in 1975 and 1985 was carried out to establish whether there were any barriers or stepping stones to progression which hindered or helped certain groups of people. Recommendations are still being considered. A review of the existing arrangements whereby staff can be reimbursed additional child care costs if they have to attend A training course which affects their normal working hours was commenced. A series of pilots on alternative working patterns focused on homeworking and extensions to flexible working hours. And guidance to managers and staff on job sharing, part-time working, flexible working hours, and alternative working patterns generally was issued. Since the publicity there has been a marked increase in term-time working. A report into the equality aspects of the Inland Revenue's performance management system was completed by independent consultants. The main conclusion was that there was nothing inherent in the system design which would inevitably lead to differing impacts on various groups. Extensive equal opportunities information was included in the "Guide to Working in the Inland Revenue", available to all members of staff.

The Inland Revenue has made the following progress since 1991: Two women became non-executive directors on the management board.

The biggest increase at senior management level during the last five years has been at grade 7 level where women increased their representation from 12 per cent. to 24.3 per cent. The first woman controller (Grade 4) was appointed in January 1994.

Valuation Office Agency (VOA)

The Valuation Office Agency follows the Inland Revenue's strategic objective of improving the representation of women at senior levels and supports the "Lifting the Barriers" initiative. The VOA issued an equal opportunities programme of action for 1996–97 in May 1996, which includes goals for women's representation by the year 2002–3. Over the last 12 months they have analysed a sample of promotion boards to identify whether there was any basis or discrimination against women. No bias or discrimination was identified.


Paymaster promotes people to vacant posts on the basis of a competency framework and merit. During the past twelve months two women have been appointed to grade 7 posts and joined the chief executive's team, the senior management team in the agency. This increased women's representation from zero to almost 25 per cent. In addition, the agency has appointed a woman as a non-executive director who provides independent advice to the management board.

Royal Mint

A woman was appointed at assistant director level—Grade 7—in the last 12 months—the first female ever to be appointed at this level in the Royal Mint.

The total number of females in executive senior management posts has increased from three to four over the last five years. Also in 1993 one female non-executive director was appointed.

Within the last year a new policy of recruiting to a post and not a grade was introduced. Monitoring of fairness of opportunity takes place at each stage of recruitment and promotion processes. The same applies to our appraisal scheme which emphasises individual objectives scored against job evaluation factors. The Mint tries to ensure that at least one member of recruitment/selection panels is female. The proportion of women in senior positions has risen in the last five years from 7.5 per cent. to 10 per cent.

National Savings

The recent reorganisation of National Savings has had the effect of restricting the number of promotions and recruitment.

Despite these factors, development of equal opportunities policies has continued with a highly successful awareness training course for managers being introduced, and the seniority requirement for promotion being reduced to two years, both within the past year. Self-nomination for promotion arrangements which have been effective for two years have also had an effect in helping women to progress with the organisation.

National Savings also operates workplace nurseries and school holiday play schemes. Special unpaid leave is also available if needed during school holidays to enable staff to be with their family.

Office for National Statistics

As part of its programme for action on equal opportunities, the Office for National Statistics actively encourages women.

Over the past 12 months, ONS—and its predecessor departments, the Central Statistical Office and the Office for Population Censuses and Surveys—has operated a range of family-friendly policies including holiday play schemes, a nursery, flexible working hours and career breaks aimed at encouraging experienced members of staff to continue their careers alongside their domestic responsibilities. Other initiatives pursued by the Department in 1995–96 included: offering women-only training courses to meet demand; actively encouraging women to apply for posts in grades above executive officer, while ensuring that selection was based on merit; and monitoring the success rates of women against white males in recruitment, performance promotability assessment, promotion and internal postings.

Information about the number of promotions in earlier years is only available for the CSO. Restructuring of CSO led to fewer promotion opportunities overall. Because the new Office for National Statistics was created on 1 April 1996, analysis of monitoring data has not yet been undertaken. ONS is presently developing a new equal opportunities programme of action for 1996–97. The programme will include proposals for monitoring, analysis of the results and for action to remedy any significant disparities highlighted.

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