Women’s Representation in Indian Civil Services

 The number of women secretaries working in the Government of India is just under 13 per cent.

Women's Representation in Indian Civil Services

88 secretary-rank officers in central govt — only 11 are women

Of the 88 secretary-rank officers in the central government, only 11 are women. While a few hold important portfolios, most other women officers are posted in departments and ministries less important in nature.

According to government data, of the 700 officers working in the central government at the joint secretary level and above, only 134 — or 19.14 per cent — were women as of June 2019.

At the state level too, the numbers are not encouraging. Of the 32 chief secretaries across states and union territories, only one is a woman. Among the directors general of police too, there is only one woman IPS officer.

Source: Government of India

Participation of women in bureaucracy is “abysmally low”.  There are some factors peculiar to the civil services that make it harder for women to climb up the ladder.

In the bureaucracy, attributes like self-promotion and the ability to form informal networks are very important. That’s where efficient women lose out.

There may be as many efficient women out there as there are men, but the journey of an efficient man and an efficient woman would still be very different.

Not many women make it to the top

The reason we see fewer women officers rising to the top is because the intake ratio is skewed.

Also there are many biases that work against women in bureaucracy.

In independent India, no woman has ever risen to the rank of cabinet secretary — the top-most executive official and head of civil services in the country.

Over the years, while the percentage of women being selected by the UPSC has gone up, it has averaged to just 24 per cent even in the last three years.

The 2018 batch of 759 civil servants recruited by the UPSC had just 182 women. In the 2017 batch, when 990 civil servants were recruited, there were just 240 women. In 2016, while a total of 1,099 candidates were recruited, only 253 were women.

Only 3 women for every 10 men opt for UPSC

There is no bias in selection when it comes to the UPSC but fewer women in comparison to men opt for the civil services. It is unfortunate, but for every 10 men appearing for the exam, there are three women appearing.

So reservation for women in the civil services to ensure that at least more efficient women enter the bureaucracy in the first place and government proactively ensuring that women get promoted can be the way forward.


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