Lawmakers on Monday decried the ‘glass ceiling’ in Cyprus and the under-representation of women in public life, particularly in senior or leadership positions.

Following a discussion at the House human rights committee, Akel MP and committee chair Irini Charalambidou said that despite large numbers of women entering the civil service, statistics show that during the stage of promotions “the proportion of women dwindles the higher up the ladder goes.”

Charalambidou suggested that assessments in the civil service may not be fair to women – pointing out that only one female permanent secretary exists, compared to 10 male permanent secretaries.

In addition, at the foreign ministry a single woman is ambassador, despite the fact that a number of women serve as heads of diplomatic missions.

In the security services women’s participation is minimal, the MP said. There was also reason to believe that incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace do not receive proper attention, thus discouraging many women from filing a complaint.

It was especially distressing that, whenever such complaints do get investigated, in the interim it is the victim that typically leaves the workplace – instead of the other way around.

“Women must not serve as a fig leaf for those who want to simply keep up appearances, be it in the government, in companies or the civil service…because women have proved their worth,” commented Charalambidou.

Taking part in the discussion were officials from civil servants’ unions, the police, the fire department, as well as representatives of women’s groups and NGOs like the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies.

Disy deputy Rita Theodorou Superman spoke of “disappointing” statistics cited during the session.

MPs heard for example that women’s participation in local government stands at a mere 15 per cent, females comprise 25 per cent of ministers, female MPs are only 14 per cent, and female officers in the National Guard just three per cent.