Diversity of Leadership Seminar
25th April 2011

Diversity of Leadership Seminar

Diversity of Leadership Seminar

Basildon Council held a roundtable debate on increasing the diversity of leadership in the public sector on 31 March 2011, hosted by CEMVO, at the Civil Service Club

Baroness Verma, Minister for Equality and Women, and Bala Mahendran, the CEO of Basildon Council, chaired a roundtable discussion on the very low level of senior appointments in the public sector for the BME communities as well as women on the whole. The debate was conducted under Chatham House rules and the main points highlighted were:

  • The glass ceiling is like a concrete ceiling where only 0.8% of BME’s make to the senior management level in the public sector which, in total, employs 5 million people. For instance even the ethnically diverse councils like Leicester and Bradford have no BME person in a senior leadership role; Brent has one and is the only borough a little more successful in implementing a diversity leadership policy.
  • Brent’s example improved only after a general study highlighted the problem of the ‘racial computer’ bias against non-European names in general and Brent then took action to ensure that same bias would not happen at their Council. Since then their corrective measures have led to BME names being promoted to senior positions based on their merit.
  • The first and second generations are softer but the third and fourth generations growing up now will rebel against any such prejudice. The reason why many Asians went into their own businesses is partly due to the lack of promotional prospects they faced however much they were qualified. Some get interviews for top jobs but in ‘old boys’ network environment as soon as they see their face they write them off.
  • There are systemic issues, how many Black football managers are there? Role models are few and far between; there is a visibility problem.
  • Political leadership statistics are worse than career led leadership figures.
  • How do you remove those who create the glass ceiling? Recruitment agencies have to sell to their networks; so they themselves can’t be blamed. Sometimes the sales order specifically requires an agent to source someone from the BME community just to comply with their diversity policy for someone who just about ‘fits in’ but won’t reach the top. This is an assimilation policy not diversity policy.
  • We ought to put the business case that at the Board level a diversity of opinions would make better decisions. We should not fall into the trap of ‘victim mentality’. Diversity can actually deliver better results.
  • Finally some people mentioned a requirement to set statutory quotas but the general opinion seemed to be to go for achievable ‘Targets’ at public bodies first, which can gradually translate into the private sector.

Baroness Verma offered to take this up in her department and then have a follow up meeting in about six months time.

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On behalf of CEMVO, Anil Bhanot thanked all the participants for their very valuable contribution to the debate and Baroness Verma for taking time out to hear peoples grievances on this very important issue and which he hopes will lead to perhaps a new Government policy in time to come.  Bala Mahendran was passionate in his summing up all the key points and we are sure we will see a lot more of him on leading such debates in due course. Finally we mustn’t forget Dilip Joshi who has  been the main driver to highlight the need to get greater equality in public appointments for the BME communities and it was Dilip who had approached CEMVO to host this debate, which we were priviliged to do.

Anil Bhanot   21 April 2011

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