Aspirational goals for ethnicity like gender required.

Image of Sandra Kerr OBE

Sandra Kerr OBE,  Director,  Business in the Community race equality campaign speaks of her delight that the Cabinet Office are aligning practical actions with their verbal intentions to increase diversity in public appointments.

I was delighted to attend a reception with Matthew Hancock MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office in Whitehall a few weeks ago about increasing diversity in public appointments.  It was great to see the Cabinet Office aligning practical actions with their verbal intentions and vision of a desire to see more diversity in public appointments.  Diverse backgrounds, perspectives, skills and experiences are needed around the table as much as the diversity that can be found within diverse ethnic groups and the other protected characteristics. 

Group think is risky and I think that it is also very expensive as invariably all the views, challenges and aspects of a problem can only be analysed so far with a group of people who view the world from the same lens of experiences.   Policy decisions that do not work well tend to need a special review at some date in the future where a team of people are asked to review what went wrong, what was missed and what wasn’t taken into account at the time. There is also the negative unforeseen impact the policy has had on certain groups whose voices were absent or unrepresented at the time the policy was being developed. And finally, the big question of how much it is going to cost to fix the poor policy decision. What are the costs that we will incur now to ensure our policies are fit for the future?

The Government has an aspirational target to have 50% of new public appointees to be women. Unfortunately they seemed to have stopped short of having a target for ethnicity; however, the message at the reception was clear.  They want improved diversity of representation overall on the various public bodies and that includes race and ethnicity.  That said, I would like to see some aspirational goals set for race as they have set for gender.  The last records of data capture on ethnicity that I could find were for October 2014-2015 where it stands at 7.9%.  This percentage has been stagnating at this level for around five years, in contrast to the 14% working age population in the UK. Monitoring gender and having a target enables all of us to realise when a step change in focus and action is needed to make progress. It is great to see that progress has been made where 45% of new appointments in 2014/15 were women.

I am not sure if Public Appointments were included in the Prime Minister’s BME 2020 targets.  If not, perhaps they should be to avoid this same conversation in future years.

That said, the best thing about the whole event was how simple the next steps for action were presented as being and that they made us all promise to do two things:

  • apply for roles ourselves
  • tell other people that we think would be suitable that there is a genuine call for applicants for these great opportunities to serve.

So I am fulfilling my promise and saying if you’re reading this and interested in the opportunity to influence policy and be part of the solutions, why not visit the website and see if there is a role that sparks some passion or interest in you? And do apply.