Alberta civil service has 3x as many men as women at highest level
Deputy and assistant deputy ministers work behind the scenes to craft policy, unnoticed by public
Premier Rachel Notley may have appointed a gender equal cabinet, but behind the scenes, women represent less than one third of Alberta's highest-ranking civil servants.
Of the province's 24 deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers, just seven are women.
According to independent pollster Janet Brown, these are some of the most influential individuals when it comes to crafting policy — a fact not readily recognized by the public.
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"They're under the mistaken belief that the elected officials are making the important decisions," she said.
"[Assistant deputy ministers] are very important, but irrelevant to people who just watch the circus of the legislature."
Brown suggested that the provincial government could make strides to break down barriers by introducing new policies to encourage and equip women to apply for these positions.
But political strategist Stephen Carter denied the existence of a glass ceiling, saying women are slowly but surely climbing the ladder.
"It takes time to learn how to run all these things," Carter said.
"This isn't a photo op. These are the people who run our government, and they'd better be qualified, because I'll tell you some of those ministers aren't," he said.
Political expert Zain Velji then challenged Carter's notion of what makes someone qualified.
"Is it a Fortune 500 company where the only thing you care about is merit for the bottom line, or is it something bigger than that?" Velji asked.
"I contest it is bigger than that," he said.
"These are the people doing the work behind the scenes, and they should have the breadth of diversity that is Alberta. We need that diversity of thought. We need that diversity of perspective."
With files from CBC News Calgary