The start of a new year is a natural time to look back at the 12 months just gone, think about what we have accomplished and look forward to the year ahead.
It was the start of 2016 when I launched my Diversity Initiative, calling for volunteers to identify and work on diversity-related issues. The aim was to shape the Government Statistical Service (GSS) of the future by making the best use of our diverse talents and perspectives.
The initial trigger for the initiative was a reflection I had after chairing an executive group meeting. There were not enough different viewpoints in the room for a healthy debate, and only one woman. When seeking volunteers, I specifically asked people to put themselves forward as voluntary temporary members of the executive group to add new perspectives. Out of those who came forward I recruited four people to join the group. Each has served for six months alongside one other volunteer and the regular members. All have played an active role, and one wrote a blog to recruit new volunteers for the coming year (which has resulted in an even higher response than in 2016).
However, this initiative delivered a much greater reward than simply adding members to the executive group. Forty people in total came forward, offering to make their own unique contribution. Each shared their inspiring personal stories with me, demonstrating what an extraordinary richness of talent we have in the Civil Service if we only care to ask.
Last May, I hosted two workshops for the volunteers. They worked in groups on the issues they were interested in. Further meetings and discussions in July resulted in a diversity action plan. The topics ranged from increasing the visibility of senior women in statistics, to current recruitment and line management practices, to assessing availability of diversity data across government on which to base our decisions.
Here are some of the positive outcomes of this work so far:
- ensuring equal representation of female and male keynote speakers for the 2016 GSS conference
- the launch of the GSS Diversity Matters blog, aimed at increasing awareness of diversity matters by sharing experiences
- a paper defining the questions needed to monitor diversity, and an assessment of the extent to which existing data sources can answer these questions
- a survey on the provision of assistive technology in different departments (this is open until the end of January 2017 if you want to take part)
- consideration of how specific departmental diversity schemes could be rolled out across the GSS
I would like to thank all of the volunteers for their contributions to this initiative on top of their day-to-day duties. I have been impressed not only by their commitment, but also by the insight they brought to a wide-ranging set of important issues.
So, what's next for 2017? Follow-on workshops are being organised for early in the New Year to catch-up with volunteer groups and refresh our action plans. As I said when I launched this initiative, the more we make best use of diverse talents and perspectives, the more effective we will be.
If you are reading this and are interested in getting involved in diversity matters, please get in contact at GSS.Capability@ons.gsi.gov.uk.