Women face an uphill climb in Georgia's civil service

  • An invisible but rigid gender hierarchy systematically gives men the advantage, UNDP study shows

Over 1,000 civil servants took part in the first systemic attempt to assess how gender affects career development and professional growth in the Georgian public sector. The findings: 86 percent of survey participants believe that men enjoy more power and influence than women in the workplace, while 69 percent think that men receive more rewards for their work.

The study was commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a part of a UK-funded program supporting Public Administration Reform in Georgia. It was conducted by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). The presentation of the findings marked the ongoing Gender Equality Week in Georgia.

Louisa Vinton, UNDP Head in Georgia; Catherine Kardava, Head of the Civil Service Bureau; Gocha Lordkipanidze, Deputy Minister of Justice of Georgia; Lela Akiashvilli, the Prime Minister’s Advisor for Human Rights and Gender Equality; Alexandra Cole, Deputy Head of Mission at the UK Embassy; and Giorgi Kldiashvili, IDFI Executive Director, addressed the attendees of the presentation with opening remarks.

“There is one word that struck me while reading the report: ‘invisible,’” said UNDP Head, Louisa Vinton. “It is repeated again and again: invisible barriers, invisible hierarchies, invisible practices that render the women themselves invisible. Or rather, visible only in the roles that are traditionally acceptable for women, which implies submitting to criticism and enjoying less respect from their bosses, and as a result losing out to men in their career progression.”

The results showed that the career path of male civil servants differs from that of female civil servants, and that these differences result in deeply engrained gender inequality within the Georgian civil service. Among other findings, the study found that 66 percent of civil servants believe that women are less visible than men who have the same qualifications. Women civil servants also feel they receive more criticism and less respect from their bosses than men.

“As the researchers rightly point out, we are dealing with deeply embedded, culturally determined practices. The aim of the ongoing Public Administration Reform in Georgia is to establish gender equality in civil service and promote more women to managerial positions,” said the Head of the Civil Service Bureau, Catherine Kardava.  

“The survey shows that women have to work harder to make careers in the civil service,” said the Prime Minister’s Advisor for Human Rights and Gender Equality, Lela Akiashvilli. “However, as CSB statistics show, women make up 36 percent of high-ranked civil servants and 45 percent of the government’s ministers. On one hand, this is a proof of women’s qualifications in the field, and on the other – it is an evidence for the authorities’ efforts to ensure gender equality in the public service.”

The study used both qualitative and quantitative research methods, coupled with in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with men and women civil servants, both at the central as well as at local government level. The findings are expected to help policymakers better understand and address the systemic and cultural constraints that create a public sector “glass ceiling.”


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United Nations Development Programme