In 2014-15, the government’s communication plan showed that women accounted for just 19 per cent of comms directors in large Whitehall departments, holding just three such posts.
But the 2018-19 comms plan, released earlier this year, reveals that the proportion of women in these roles has soared to 52 per cent, accounting for 11 comms director posts.
Having a more balanced workforce in terms of gender is a key aim of a wider bid by the Government Communication Service to lead by example when it comes to diversity.
Alex Aiken, executive director, GCS, argues it is "vital" that the organisation is "a representative and inclusive environment" and says: "Our ambition is to make GCS the 'go-to' employer of choice so that we can attract and retain the most talented people – regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or disability."
Greater female representation at comms director level is no accident. Since 2016 the GCS has been focusing on "improving diversity in the senior Civil Service including representation of women at all grades" according to its diversity and inclusion strategy, released last year.
One of its goals is: "Building home-grown, diverse senior talent through greater support to reach our top leadership positions, in particular representation of women at Director of Communications level."
Commenting on the gender parity at senior levels during an exclusive interview with PRWeek, Poli Stuart-Lacey, director of communications at HMRC, said: "There’s been a really big shift over the past few years on that gender balance. I definitely would have felt in the minority in the past and I don’t feel in the minority now. There’s been a deliberate investment in ensuring a better balance at those senior levels."
She added: "There’s a noticeable new generation of senior female leaders in government communications when I look around, and I think that’s really positive. I’m proud to be one of the directors of comms of one of the big departments, [in] a role that’s traditionally been held by men. I feel proud that I’ve been given the opportunity to take it on, and hopefully that sets a good example for other women."