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Civil Service

If I’m invited to the party, I want to dance

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service, A great place to work, Diversity and inclusion
Woman speaking at conference
Jacky Wright, Chief Digital and Information Officer, HMRC

As the daughter of a Windrush immigrant and a native of North London, I might not fit into the small box of what some people think of as a typical civil servant - but I am helping to change that.

I started my career in America, and I have always worked in technology in various roles - everything from coding to project management to Chief Information Officer. I was not actively looking for a new job when I was contacted about becoming Chief Digital and Information Officer at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), but when I spoke to First Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive Jon Thompson about the role he was hiring for, it immediately caught my attention.

A role in the Civil Service gives one the ability to have real impact and effect change in a profound way, UK-wide, which is something I knew I wanted to be a part of. In addition, who you work for is an important consideration, and I realised that Jon is a very inclusive leader.

I joined the Civil Service a year ago as a director general, a senior civil servant post, to lead the digital transformation and drive the technology services for the organisation, which is key to being able to provide high-quality services to citizens and employees.


It should be a no-brainer that diversity is important, especially in the Civil Service. Having diverse teams is the only way to truly understand the needs of people from all walks of life, so we can better serve the society we represent. This is why people who work in the Civil Service should come from different backgrounds.  

I think we are focusing on diversity in the Civil Service in the right way. I am on the Civil Service Diverse Leadership Task Force, working on how we recruit more people from diverse backgrounds and disabilities into the Senior Civil Service. We look at how we attract the right talent, how we make sure we have fully inclusive recruitment and promotion processes and how we better show visible role models.

Image of Jacky Wright with quote on inclusion

But diversity without inclusion is not enough. I use the analogy of diversity as being invited to the party, and inclusion as being invited to dance.

Inclusion is every voice being heard. It is being able to bring your whole self to work and be authentic. It is an environment where challenge is welcome, and everyone feels empowered and respected, no matter what level you are.

We can hire all the people we want, but if we are not bringing them into the decision-making process, if their experiences are not included and they are not able to challenge or to bring another perspective, then you have done nothing more than invite them to the party.   

Removing barriers

This Black History Month, I have been reminded that celebrating differences helps people understand other people’s experiences.

Graphic with legend 'A great place to work'As a senior civil servant, part of my leadership role is to remove barriers for our people. I work with the Civil Service Ethnic Diversity programme and the very active Civil Service Race Networks, and host a series of roundtables across government. Time and time again it is inclusivity, rather than simply diversity, that is the most prevalent theme coming across. We have a big opportunity to create a rich culture where everyone can achieve their full potential and help push the Civil Service, government, and the country, forward.

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  1. Comment by Em posted on

    The Civil Service: Like a Phil Collins' LP should be as default "No Jacket Required" - if it can be done outside wearing a shirt and tie (and I love shirts, ties, suits, dresses), then it should be.

    Straight away this broadens the ability to attract a wide range of people e.g. those from poorer backgrounds, who on Day 1 of "the world of work" have very little discretionary cash for two suits, 5 shirts etc. Or 5 dresses, 2 pairs of shoes etc.

  2. Comment by Roger posted on

    Thank you Jacky. I think this is the most succinct, practical and authentic piece I have read on this issue in years. So important that all voices and experiences are heard if we are to deliver policies that work.

  3. Comment by Esther posted on

    Reading this article has giving me hope.
    Absolutely spot on!!

  4. Comment by Kev posted on

    But diversity without inclusion is not enough. I use the analogy of diversity as being invited to the party, and inclusion as being invited to dance.

    I would say "Inclusion is being able to attend how you wish with who you wish!?"

  5. Comment by Fee posted on

    Jacky I am in absolute awe of your article, every word perfectly put together, thank you for being our voice!

  6. Comment by Rose posted on

    Wow absolutely love this article.

  7. Comment by Kelly Pendergast posted on

    Thank you - absolutely spot on and beautifully put!!

  8. Comment by Sadeka posted on

    Wow - love this! I will be stealing your analogy of diversity! I can totally relate to it.

  9. Comment by Michael posted on

    It's a start but I wonder how inclusive the recruitment policies are. Currently only 32% of people with autism are employed, this drops to 16% in full time roles. Compared to approximately 50% for disabled people as a whole, and around 90% of the UK population it is obvious that the current recruitment and promotion strategies are not working for people with autism.

    I would be curious as to what percentage of civil servants are autistic, and then compare that to the percentage of SCS who are autistic. It would be interesting to see how that compares to the approximately 1% of the general population who are autistic.

  10. Comment by Richard MoD posted on

    Excellent and well thought out blog! Thanks Jackie. I hope this will bring a lot of soul searching, and behaviour change in many with the power to change things. If only there was a central pool of people one could approach to get redress!
    I am always disappointed by those who are good at enunciating a policy, and very poor at executing the strategy. I have seen it time and time again. I am not persuaded a lot has changed. (Think of the USA today, and you get my drift.)
    That's no different to a general, who is good at planning a battle, and poor at executing his plan. The summary? It will not be any good when it ends up in failure!

  11. Comment by Michelle HMRC posted on

    "Inclusion is every voice being heard. It is being able to bring your whole self to work and be authentic. It is an environment where challenge is welcome, and everyone feels empowered and respected, no matter what level you are."

    This is great, I'm going to use it!

  12. Comment by JM posted on

    Lovely analogy. Currently I'm trying to be included, being disabled*, in occasionally being able to work at home this would be beneficial*. Not having a Surface Pro thwarts me and not being given 'the dance' because the profile built on laptop which cannot be implemented because there's the problem still being on a CPU with no docking station/similar SP port. Being included in brilliant future for technology will be nice, then maybe I too can join the dance, but there are many others with specialist software's that are in same exclusion zone and we really need help.

  13. Comment by Marvelyn posted on

    Jacky your blog is spot on.

  14. Comment by Tess Scanlan posted on

    Hi Jackie,
    I loved reading your article -it gave me some hope. We have a long way to go though before we recognised that everyone has a role regardless and a voice to be heard that needs to be considered. The music analogy is spot on. . Are differences are part of us but they are not the whole us . We need to learn to respect differences and see how it adds strength . I am finding it difficult to articulate as it is a subject I feel very passionate about. As somebody who maybe on the autism spectrum I have spent my whole life trying to fit in , to be what society wants me to be, to work how society wants me to work as it is at odds with the majority . But I have a right to be heard as me and join in that dance as me.

    Thank you Jackie for giving me a glimpse of hope

  15. Comment by David M posted on

    Neurodiversity is something of a new concept in my own workplace. My own condition comes with some challenges but also some extraordinary strengths. From my own experience within my current Government Department, such concepts as embracing Neurodiversity are falling upon stony ground. I am kept distinctly at arms length by colleagues, and my performance is measured directly against more able-bodied officers.

    It's great to get an invite to the party, but if nobody shows you the dance moves......

  16. Comment by Sharon Cardwell posted on

    Hi Love the analogy Jacky. I agree the Civil Service is making progress with Diversity but has a long way to go as regards Inclusion. In the Mental Health arena we employ people who have disclosed mental health conditions, then expect them to dance in step with their peers often leading to a feeling of exclusion as they work against the effects of prescribed medication to keep up with others. Yes we do have processes for reasonable adjustments to be considered but they are rarely implemented at the outset and often only when something goes wrong. On the plus side there is an increase in Mental Health Advocate resource to support people , sign post them to help and in some small way help them sustain employment . People with mental health issues get excited about securing a job (the invite) and some are quickly deflated by the lack of foresight for their particular needs (to facilitate dancing).

  17. Comment by Rob Neil posted on

    Yesssss!!!! I love this, spot on Jacky - we gotta involve to evolve. Keeeeeeeeep dancin’ ????❤️??

  18. Comment by Ruel Cole posted on

    Without Prejudice
    In the words of Steve Wonder, Sir Duke “music is a world within itself with a language we all understand with an equal opportunity for all to sing, dance and clap their hands”. If we take the time to listen to music, that we play, you are able to hear the diversity of instruments, all playing their part in harmony with each other. Diversity and Inclusion within the civil service and the wider community should be the same.

    • Replies to Ruel Cole>

      Comment by Richard MoD posted on

      How so true! The more diverse the musical instruments, the richer the sound of the music!
      How tragic therefore, when we are expected to all have the same instruments, or behaviours, especially how we explain things, and relate to situations! The list goes on.
      So there is still work to be done. Like being top of the league, you just have to keep working on the changes in your environment, or you will find yourself in mediocre league!