The scale of gender inequality in the federal bureaucracy and the dominance of men in senior positions has been revealed by new data released by the Australian Public Service Commission.
The figures, designed to provide policymakers with a snapshot of the workforce, shows the number of permanently employed women has fallen to the lowest level in nearly a decade.
It shows women have been disproportionately hit by redundancies in recent years, with the permanent male workforce trimmed by 2.8 per cent last year, compared to 5.5 per cent for women.
Despite repeated public commitments, gender diversity in the senior ranks continues to underwhelm. Women represent 42 per cent of the SES band despite outnumbering men by 22,132 ongoing positions.
The proportion of women in senior management positions continues to be higher in some departments than others.
The vast majority of rank-and-file public servants are women, but progression to more senior and lucrative positions continues to be a challenge.
The public service also hired more male graduates than females in 2015; 375 positions compared to 305.
The number of women in senior positions has increased in recent years, thanks to a number of department's prioritising strategies to address inequality and career progression for women.
Three years ago, women accounted for 39.5 per cent of SES positions across the workforce. This was significantly higher than the 16.4 per cent of women serving on the boards of ASX 200 companies.
At the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, nearly 57 per cent of the department's employees are female but fewer than 34 per cent serve in senior executive positions and only 27 per cent are heads of mission.
Late last year, DFAT secretary Peter Varghese released the findings of a report that investigated why women were not granted the same career progression opportunities as men.
"The department can only perform at its best if all staff have the opportunity to reach their full potential," the report said.
"Unequal representation of men and women at our senior levels suggests we are not maximising our capability."
At the Department of Treasury, women hold just 31 per cent of senior executive positions according to data tabled at a recent senate estimates hearing.
In 2011, only 23 per cent of Treasury senior executives were female compared to 37 per cent of the overall public service and 40 per cent in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Earlier this year, Treasury secretary John Fraser said it was difficult to entice well-qualified women to move to Canberra and accept a senior position with the department.
"For family reasons, in particular, moving to Canberra is a big issue for both women and men, but particularly I've found so far for women," he said.
According to the latest APS State of the Service report, the number of women employed at an SES 3 rank has increased five-fold since 1995. Back then, women represented just 19 per cent of the SES ranks.
A recent Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee inquiry also found the ratio of women on government boards had fallen from 41.7 per cent to 39.1 per cent.
Half of the portfolios did not meet the government's 40:40:20 target, which means that boards should be made up of 40 per cent men, 40 per cent women and 20 per cent of positions can go to either gender.