Strengthening women civil servant leadership for positive change in society

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The General State Census of Civil Servants of Mongolia shows that 208,864 civil servants serve at 4,026 government organizations. Whilst 62.6 percent of them are women, more than 70 percent of political and special services personnel are men, indicating gender inequality in the decision-making process of the civil service. At the very least, the fact that only 20 percent of senior civil servants are women suggests that women’s opportunities for re-election are limited to this extent.

In addition, the highest positions in the public administration category are state secretaries of ministries, heads of government agencies, heads of the capital and provincial governor’s offices, secretaries of citizens’ representatives' councils, and heads of the Capital City Governor’s Office and its departments. However, the low proportion of women leaders in these positions has led to the failure of meeting gender quotas for administrative posts in the civil service set by the Gender Equality Law.

For instance, the majority of female civil servants who participated in the Mongolian Women Lawyers’ Association’s “Baseline Study on Gender Equality in Public Administration” emphasized the need for support for the development of women civil servants’ leadership skills and fair opportunities for job promotions and career advancement.

In an effort to ensure gender equality in the civil service, countries worldwide are becoming more committed to creating equality and equity in public policy, improving access to services, and making progress more accessible to all citizens. For example, Canada has managed to realistically support the leadership of women civil servants through the Employee Resource Groups Program, which enhances their leadership skills by allowing them to study, engage in mentorship and coaching, share experiences, and organize workshops among minority groups within a civil service organization and a sectoral institution.

The Civil Service Council of Mongolia has been active in reforming the civil service since 2018. An example of this is the “Towards a Professional and Citizen-centred Civil Service in Mongolia” project, implemented by the United Nations Development Program and the Civil Service Council with the support of the government of Canada. The project continues to not only support the implementation of gender quotas for administrative posts in the civil service set by the Gender Equality Law but also develop leadership capacities and networking among female leaders in the civil service. In doing so, the Women’s Leadership Program was developed and implemented for women civil servants in public administration, yielding tangible results and encouraging local government staff to advise and help each other and participate in local development policies.

As part of the project, the first Convention for Women Civil Servants was held under theme “Equal Opportunities – Collective Results” earlier in March and where politicians, high-level bureaucrats shared about the process of changes in the institutional environment to ensure gender equality in the civil service. During the event, participants agreed that gender equality, or the result of their cooperation, is the key to building an equitable and balanced civil service and one that provides inclusive public services for social justice. The Civil Service Council also introduced the approval of the Action Plan for Gender Equality in the Civil Service 2021-2023 and with support from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, it has developed recommendations for gender equality in the civil service, which are currently applied in their activities.

At the convention, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection stressed that the 2022 revision of the Labor Law has created many new principles and conditions to ensure gender equality and women’s employment. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Mongolia Catherine Ivkoff addressed the convention, highlighting that equal opportunities are the key to public prosperity and that Canada is committed to gender equality. Seeing many civil servants gathered at the convention to openly discuss gender equality in the civil service, she was sure that this would further accelerate the civil service reform. Other participants also emphasized the importance of the Work-Life Balance Policy for civil servants and other employment modalities in the post-COVID-19 era.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan