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How to increase opportunities for women to work in the Public Sector

Michael Lonnon
09 Feb, 2023

A practical project you can run in your organisation

Have you ever felt your career limited on the basis of your gender? If so, you’re not alone. 

It shouldn’t be like this, should it? Yet, for many like you, it’s the sad reality. A sad reality brought into stark focus when you consider that women account for just 17% of local authority leaders. And that for every £1 men earn in public sector roles, women earn 83p.

Despite this, today, there has never been a better time for women to forge a long lasting, satisfying and successful career, in the public sector. Here’s why.

Unleash the staggering variety

In June of this year, the UK hit a 10-year high in the number of tech and digital job vacancies. And, as of writing, there are 160,000 job vacancies across the public sector. 

The UK, in general, is suffering a skills gap. But the public sector is feeling the pain of this more than industries in the private sector. The reason is the private sector is seen as a more attractive place to build a career. With more variety. Opportunities to progress. And a salary that reflects this. Myths this mini project will help dispel.

The public sector is staggering in both its variety of job roles, and opportunities to advance. Just ask Swindon Council’s Chief Executive Susie Kemp:

“Somebody banged on my door and asked: ‘fancy standing for local government?’ and I thought, yeah, all right. Actually, if you'd asked me when I was 20, I'd have told you I was going to be the next female prime minister. I was blessed because I was right place right time with a bit of brawn about me. I did a whole load of fabulous things for 10 years and then I decided in 2006, I wanted to be an officer because I thought that's where I could add value, and I became officer Kemp, as my old counsellor friends call me, and the rest is history.”

Susie Kemp Chief Executive, Swindon Council

Introduction to the project

Your objective is to find, attract, and hire, the brightest female talent into your organisation. An organisation that, through your recommendations, has built a culture welcoming of the nuances of each gender, and now acts in accordance with this.

We want you to solve these two interlinked issues of culture and recruitment. And this project aims to help more women find their feet – and the perfect role – in your organisation, by developing the culture to be more attractive to female talent. Thanks to your recommendations, your organisation will come across as the perfect place to find and build a career.

Up for the challenge? Good, let’s go…


How to increase opportunities for women to work in public sector

The project has two components:
  • 1

    Component 1

    • How can the public sector position itself as a hotbed of opportunity for women looking to establish a long-lasting, rewarding and successful career?
    • What long-held views present the biggest hurdle to change, and how can you overcome them?

  • 2

    Component 2

    • How can your organisation evolve its culture to be one more receiving of the nuances of the rich and diverse qualities of each person?
    • How can you then instil this as, and encourage it to be, standard operational practice?


  • Undertake an internal review, identifying the challenges organisations in public sector face in recruiting the brightest female talent. Detail the barriers and provide recommendations as to how they can be overcome. (Think 2 pages of A4) Use this insight to build your recommendations and develop a high-level plan that will provide the basis on which to shape the culture of public sector organisations. For example, how might the practice of writing job specs differ, given such nuances as how phrasing of roles is perceived i.e. unless a woman can tick all the boxes listed in a job description they may not apply, whereas a man will have less qualms if he believes he can at least 60% of what is being asked.

  • Devise a recruitment/marketing campaign designed to increase awareness of the opportunities within public sector, and the reasons why top female talent will find it the best industry to develop and grow their career. (Think 2 pages of A4). Consider the tools at your disposal. Online, recruitment fairs, internal awareness, social media, and so on. Using all available means of reach, who will you target, where will you target them and what messages will you use to highlight the attractiveness of the public sector. 

Use your own views and experiences as part of your findings. But also take the time to speak with other female workers in your organisation, and perhaps male colleagues to seek their view as allies, to get their perspective. Much external research is also available so build that into your final output and recommendations. 

Final output

If you submit your two documents to HSO Head of Public Sector Marketing, Michael Lonnon (mlonnon@hso.com), he will have your findings and plan reviewed by HSOs diversity, culture, and inclusion team.

The team will then provide feedback and recommendations you can take forward to your senior leaders for action.

Alternatively, simply take your research and plan directly to your leadership team for evaluation. It may be just one small step, but it’s one small step in the right direction.

HSO believe women can.

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