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Civil Service

Out of the shadow and into the boardroom

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A great place to work, Diversity and inclusion
Portrait image of Ravinder Cheema
Ravinder Cheema, Acquisitions Manager at LocatED

Think of ‘The Board’ and you think of something isolated and not easily influenced – a group of senior people sat round a huge oak table, all wearing grey suits. Well that is what I thought until earlier this year.

In February, I had my first boardroom meeting in 100 Parliament Street, Westminster. The oak table was so large that each seat had a microphone! That is where the stereotypes ended.

It was the inaugural meeting of the Property Leaders Shadow Board. A board made up of diverse members from all grades in the Government Property Function. The Shadow Board is an opportunity to work alongside a diverse and enthusiastic group of people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. 

The Shadow Board gives members an understanding of what challenges and opportunities occur within Government Property. Alongside this is the opportunity to help shape its future by influencing the senior leaders on the Property Leaders Board by reviewing papers that they decide on. I have found this both illuminating and challenging.

Shadow Board has taught me that engagement with people across government from all backgrounds and levels makes good commercial sense. The initiative has also helped me understand the importance of inclusion in the workplace. Within the property disciplines in government we have some very talented and ambitious people with different ideas. If they understand more about the running of Government Property, they'll be thinking more laterally in their roles. This is an area where the Shadow Board and Property Leaders can really learn from each other. 

As part of the programme, each Shadow Board member is assigned a mutual mentor who sits on the Property Leaders Board. The opportunity is valuable, as we are given space to share ideas and learn from each other. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Janet Young, Government Chief Property Officer, whose own journey is unique. This highlights to me that a career journey does not have to be set in a specific way for you to be successful in your field. 

The public sector estate is large, valued at £496 billion, one of the largest asset classes in the Whole of Government Accounts. The estate encounters different types of problems, which require the attention of different types of professionals, trained to deal with all sorts of situations. Creating a more inclusive culture within Government Property can only help to increase the number of well-rounded people that work here. 

I am an Acquisitions Manager at LocatED (a government-owned property company) where I have first-hand experience of how diversity and inclusion can lead to the successful delivery of projects. The collaborative environment which has been created encompasses different perspectives, resulting in more creative solutions. 

During National Inclusion Week (23 to 29 September), I would encourage you all to think about the role that inclusion plays in getting results in your everyday life. Even if your work wardrobe is full of grey suits.

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  1. Comment by Tola Ayoola posted on

    Thanks for sharing your views and comments and your personal experience of attending a Board and the impact this made to you. It is always good to hear how diverse views are heard and contributing at Board level. Whilst I welcome the notion of a Shadow Board, I am keen to know the reasons a Shadow Board is required and how the Department is working towards increasing representation at Board level?

    We all recognise that it's important for decision makers to have a diverse range of colleagues from different socio economic and cultural backgrounds to ensure we take the most effective decisions. The D&I Strategy has highlighted that across all departments we ought to focus on areas where there is greater underrepresentation in the senior civil service, these are the areas of disability and ethnicity. It seems like your Department are looking at addressing this. I will be keen to learn from from they are doing and what has worked well and less well in your opinion.