All-male shortlists and interview panels for Whitehall's top jobs will be banned to help boost the number of senior women.

Most of the workforce, 53%, are female but the figure drops to 37% among the senior civil service (SCS), according to a Cabinet Office report.

In a fresh push to change the culture across Whitehall, all government departments will have board-level "diversity champions" and p ermanent secretaries will mentor at least one junior employee.

Training will be given to interviewers to drive out unconscious bias and male-only panels and shortlists will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances as part of the talent action plan.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "To deliver excellent public services for hardworking families we need the best civil servants. But for too long, too few talented women reached the highest levels. We have examined the actual barriers faced by women and are now addressing them. We are also commissioning further work to ensure that you can succeed in the civil service whoever you are - it's all part of our long-term plan for a stronger economy."

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said: "Our talent action plan is designed to ensure that the most talented civil servants, regardless of their background, can progress quickly and fulfil their potential. We will encourage take-up of our generous shared parental leave offer, make sure women are better represented on recruitment boards, and sharpen procedures for identifying and developing our best people.

"The civil service already benefits from a more diverse talent pool than many British employers. More than half of all civil servants are women, and more than a third of top civil service positions are held by women. But we can do even better.

"Above all, the collective leadership of the civil service is committed to creating a truly diverse workforce that delivers the best for Britain."