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Civil Service

Creating true inclusion

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Diversity and inclusion
Helena Morrissey
Helena Morrissey

Earlier this month, the 30% Club collaborated with OUTstanding, the professional network for LGBT senior executives and their allies, to hold our first joint event. Our rationale for combining forces was to dismantle a silo mentality towards diversity – many issues around difference are shared and we hope to amplify results by working together.

The event featured Lord Browne, former CEO of BP, and Carolyn McCall, CEO of Easyjet, who shared their career experiences and offered advice to others who fall outside the norm of those who’ve traditionally made it to the top.

It was a fascinating discussion, with plenty of contributions from the audience, many reflecting frustrations that, in the 21st century, we haven’t made more progress.

Creating true inclusion

Of course, the challenges involved in being a gay senior executive - but not "out" for the first 41 years of Lord Browne’s career - are quite different to those experienced by Carolyn, who highlighted the all-too-familiar difficulties she encountered in being taken just as seriously after having children as before. But there are also many similarities in the struggle, with Lord Browne eloquently summarising, "We haven’t created true inclusion until women won’t feel they have to be honorary men and gays won’t feel they have to be honorary straights."

So, what can be done to accelerate change? My experience of founding the 30% Club, whose members are the chairmen of British businesses and the heads of public sector organisations like the Civil Service, has been an encouraging one. The proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards has doubled in five years to 25.4%, and there are now no all-male FTSE 100 boards. Most importantly, the mindset has shifted, so this is no longer seen as a women’s issue but everyone’s issue.

A formula for faster progress

Five key factors have driven this progress, combining to create a replicable formula for faster progress at all organisational levels, beyond the boardroom and beyond gender:

  1. A measurable goal with a defined timetable. I am opposed to quotas, believing that we need to "own" change to deliver it. But it is important to set objectives to keep us focused and to track progress.
  2. Supportive public policy. The 30% Club has worked closely with Lord Davies, and the combination of business-led change supported by government has been powerful.
  3. Change has been driven by those at the top – typically white, heterosexual, middle-aged men! The majority has campaigned for the minority – a much more effective approach than under-represented groups working on their own.
  4. There’s been an openness to collaborate. The 30% Club partners with many fantastic organisations doing great work around gender equality – bringing cohesion to these efforts, filling in gaps, but not being in any way competitive or territorial. This is simply a group of leaders determined to see change.
  5. And it’s not been just talk. There’s a concerted, consistent, cohesive programme of actions, from schoolroom to boardroom. Progress takes a degree of relentlessness and a sense of urgency.

What’s exciting is that we now have momentum. There’s much to do to achieve Lord Browne’s state of true inclusion, but I am optimistic. Most importantly, smart organisations and their leaders recognise that the best results are achieved by diverse teams.

We are moving towards the goal where difference is genuinely valued.  Where we value individuality and people feel they belong.

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  1. Comment by Paul posted on

    As a person with a hidden disability - and, unfortunately a very difficult (for me) medical history that required numerous hospital admissions (although, touch wood, the last being in 2012) - I feel very excluded within the DWP in terms of promotion. I joined the Civil Service many years ago, as it was an option open to me with my chronic life changing condition, that impacts on all that I do on a daily basis. There were many alternatives that I wished to pursue - the military, police, paramedic, disaster rescue, pilot, etc - even HGV driving (yes, really!) - as I wanted an outside energetic career - but it soon became clear to me, through my applications for these roles, that this wasn't going to happen. But, despite my health, I have maintained very good attendance at work - even in my most challenging years returning to work before I was fully recovered - but am constantly overlooked with regard to promotion. As soon as I express any issues - such as the amount of travelling that would be required for example, or that I cannot get to a particular location on my own - then I hit a brick wall. What the DWP should do, but fail to, is to make allowances and reasonable adjustments. Instead, I am regarded as 'too much trouble' and never achieve my potential. Considering my own belief in my commitment (and I have shown this throughout my Civil Service career) and my academic achievements, I find this very disheartening and have all but given up on any further promotion. I find it particularly hard to accept when others are promoted, some of whom I have spent a great deal of time coaching in particular roles, or when I have TDA'd for roles and received thanks and praise for how (for example), I ran a certain team during periods of annual leave, etc. But even after proving myself, it counts for nothing as soon as my disability and how this affects me becomes clear. Unfortunately, DWP do not live up to their mantra with regard to staff with disabilities or serious health issues, no matter the high level of commitment those staff display.

  2. Comment by Ms Wilson posted on

    There is a LOT of work to be done regarding fair treatment and inclusion of disabled staff. The MoJ sickness policy is very anti-disability as only pregnancy related sickness is automatically discounted. You return from disability related absence and in your back to work meeting your line manager looks for patterns and the pattern is disability but it is ignored. On a positive note, we have staff in our department who hold senior positions from BAME and LGBT groups. In addition, a lot of women hold senior roles but to the point where there could be discrimination towards men. I really hope the support for disabled staff improves. As mentioned earlier not many disabled staff hold senior positions as, in my opinion, there is no recognition of disability in the workplace or support.

  3. Comment by Peninah A-Kindberg posted on

    I think that progress in relation to BME staff has been very slow across the Civil service and NHS respectively. Whilst women's issues have progressed significantly, race have regressed. There has to be buy in from the top to create space for representation, otherwise paying lipservice and the pace of change which is not allowed to embed results in failure.

  4. Comment by Denise posted on

    I loved the Civil Service, and would return on a heartbeat, but at SCS level the physical requirements of travelling or even walking around such large buildings became exhausting. I had first class support from my managers but the structure of the civil service requires mobility from its staff. The problems really are in the detail, not in the culture which I found very inclusive.

  5. Comment by Kevin posted on

    Have you ever considered relationship status i.e Divorced/widowd/single/married etc. It can be very depressing for a Singleton working in a coupled environment. It becomes worse when seeing colleagues get married/coupled up while they are left on the shelf.

  6. Comment by Rakesh Bhandari posted on

    There is a lot of talk of diversity and inclusionin HMRC and other departments,however, nothing changes and all managers in SME are white whilst the lower and HO grades are populated by BAME employees, the same goes for disabled employees. The cisvil service does not reflect society but some old colonial power. I doubt this initiative will change anything, it never does, you only have to look at the stats, they are appaling.

  7. Comment by Leslie Chinweze posted on

    This is a great idea as an ethnic minority civil servant myself I really appreciate the efforts the service is making to improve diversity. However the focus needs to be on equality of opportunity not just equality. One area that needs addressing is the requirement to notify a line manager and get their endorsement , every time someone applies for a civil service job, this understandably could put many BME's off applying and could harm existing relationships, particularly if more than one job is applied for. There is no requirement to do this in the private sector, and references can be taken from managers if interviews are offered. Any barriers that stop under represented groups applying for the top jobs should be removed.

    • Replies to Leslie Chinweze>

      Comment by Julie Anderson posted on

      I agree with Leslie: to have an objective chance of a job change or promotion the application should be CV and example based without the need for a manager's endorsement. After 34 years in the Civil Service I have yet to see anything less than subjectivity (however much the persons involved would testify otherwise) by colleague-managers when assessing whether someone is suitable for promotion. I know from my own experience, and other colleagues comments we doubt ourselves due to the type of feedback managers are expected to provide in 1-2-1's etc.
      The applications should have an independent assessment, and the endorsement should purely be around whether under business needs whether it's feasible to let staff go. If you were applying for a job outside the Civil Service none of this would be required bar from the normal notice period. Confidence in your own abilities is paramount in moving forward.

  8. Comment by Helen Lederer posted on

    Great blog - Totally agree with the change needing to be driven by the majority and that sucess is all about relentless focus.