In 2015 the proportion of Senior Civil Service (SCS) posts in the Scottish Government that are held by women dropped to 35 per cent, the same as in 2011, research by professional services firm EY found.
In England, the rate rose from 35 per cent in 2011 to 39 per cent in 2015, while in the Welsh government 47 per cent of leading civil service posts are held by females, up from 38 per cent in 2011.
The EY report said, in 2013, women made up 40 per cent of senior civil servants in the Scottish Government and stated: “In comparison to Wales and England Scotland clearly lags behind.”
Overall the UK ranks fourth in the G20 and first among European G20 nations on the proportion of women who are senior government officials, with a rate of 38.7 per cent – putting it 7.4 points behind the leader, Canada.
However, Scotland did have one of the smallest pay gaps in the civil service at 0.6 per cent, compared with the UK average of 6.3 per cent between male and female senior civil servants in core departments.
The research found that the UK Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) was the only one with a pay differential which favoured women, who on average earn 1.5 per cent more than their male counterparts.
Neil MacLean, head of government and public sector at EY in Scotland, said: “Scotland’s public sector is a leading example in terms of equal pay. These figures prove Scotland is edging closer to eliminating the gender pay inequality and sets a fine example.
“However, disparity still exists in Scotland and the wider UK despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act proving legislation alone isn’t enough.
“There needs to be a concerted effort across the Civil Service to tackle the hidden economic and social barriers that stand in the way of equal pay for women.”
The Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, told the report: “The Scottish Government has been working hard to address the gender pay gap in our organisation and it’s encouraging to see these results.”
The Scottish Government encourages public, private and third sector bodies to commit to having a 50/50 gender balance on their boards by 2020.