Natalie Howson.

Natalie Howson. Photo: Elesa Lee

One of the ACT's most senior public servants was forced to apologise to her workers after sending an all staff email that included the word ''leso'' in reference to homosexual women.

The director-general of the Community Services Directorate, Natalie Howson, sent the email to staff on Tuesday, January 28, following the Australia Day long weekend.

Mrs Howson included an attachment that took a ''light-hearted look at Australian colloquialisms''.

The email attachment made reference to the tendency for Australians to attach the letter 'o' to a series of words, including the word ''leso''.

The email caused offence to some individuals, who contacted Fairfax Media.

Mrs Howson almost immediately retracted the email after it had been sent.

She then resent the message without the attachment, including an apology to anyone who had been offended.

The director-general, responding to questions about the incident, released a written statement on Tuesday.

She repeated her apology over the email, and said it was never her intention to offend anyone.

''For this reason I recalled the original email and re-sent my message without the attachment on colloquialisms. I included an apology to anyone offended by the content of the attachment,'' Mrs Howson said.

''I unreservedly apologise to anyone offended by the email,'' she said.

The Community Services Directorate has responsibility for a variety of agencies, including the ACT's Office for Women, which is dedicated to promoting and protecting women's rights.

Mrs Howson took over at the helm of the directorate in December 2012, after a considerable period as deputy director-general and acting director-general.

She was described at the time as showing compassion, leadership and strategic direction in some of the toughest areas of government.

The directorate head began her career as a teacher and a specialist in drug education, and was praised by her minister, Joy Burch, for overseeing major reforms in care and protection, youth justice, and in preparing for the National Disability Insurance Scheme trial in the ACT.

She came to the job with experience of almost 20 years in the ACT and Commonwealth public service.