Skip to main content
Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

A look back at 2019 – Civil Service Race Champion Richard Heaton

Head and shoulders image of Richard Heaton
Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, and Civil Service Race Champion

Here are some reflections on the year just ending, from my perspective as Race Champion.

First, I was reminded throughout the year that at any one time there will be groups or communities feeling under particular pressure, for reasons that may originate far from the workplace. If we are to be truly inclusive, we must respond to this ugly truth, rather than ignore it. We should go out of our way to make our colleagues know that the Civil Service is a place where they will be supported to be themselves, and to express their racial or cultural heritage without fear. That was the strong theme, for example, at a Hanukkah celebration hosted this week by the Civil Service Jewish Network.

Next, I have been struck this year by the confidence and passion with which we came together to celebrate both Black History Month, and Windrush Day. The main movers in these celebrations were some remarkable individuals and networks (a special mention to the Civil Service Race Forum, and the Race to the Top G6/7 network); but participation and audiences were wide and very diverse.

At those events, I loved hearing from some of our outstanding Black leaders. Several of them find themselves with enhanced reputations as the year ends and, in some cases, new and stretching jobs. From my own department alone, that number includes Cheryl Avery, Diane Caddle, Junior Johnson, and Gary Badley. And the talent list across the service is richer and more exciting than it has ever been.

 And what about our progress on ethnic diversity in the Civil Service? I am pleased with the progress we’ve made. But I long ago gave up thinking this would be easy, and I am humbled by the sheer hard work that has gone into achieving this year's improvement. To staff networks, departmental Race Champions, diversity and inclusion teams, and to the many senior leaders who have clocked the importance of this issue and have got stuck in: thank you. There are many others working tirelessly, often on top of their ‘day jobs’, to promote ethnic diversity in the Civil Service. You know who you are: thank you too.

Our ethnicity minority representation rate for the Senior Civil Service is 6%, which is the highest it has ever been (5.7% a year ago). At the feeder grades we are at 8.3% for Grade 6 and 11.3% for Grade 7 (7.7% and 9.8% a year ago). As I say, that's cause for collective pride; but there's a long way still to go. And beyond the data, the stories and testimonies still speak vividly of barriers, assumptions and discrimination in the work and career journeys of some ethnic minority colleagues. So, there's plenty more work to be done – and to be done in a sustainable way; otherwise, we'll go backwards.

At my bi-monthly meetings with departmental Race Champions, we’ve introduced ‘deep dives’ on ethnic diversity, giving departments and functions the opportunity to share good practice. We’ve mandated ethnically diverse Senior Civil Service (SCS) recruitment panels from 1 April 2019. We are prioritising initiatives with a focus on career progression for ethnic minority colleagues in Grades 6/7, including SCS masterclasses, SCS application briefing sessions, and the 'Empower' enhanced mentoring and sponsorship programme. The Ethnic Diversity Programme is delivering these initiatives in partnership with staff race networks, departments and Race Champions. Importantly, they’ve been developed in direct response to feedback from our ethnic minority colleagues, particularly those from staff race networks, who really want to see more people who look like them at the top tiers of our organisations. We’ll evaluate their impact in the new year.

In my Black History Month video message with Selvin Brown I mentioned a particular focus for the Civil Service on the experience of ethnic minority women. Accounts of that lived experience have been the subject of a series of frank and open listening events. More to come. 

Meanwhile, Jacky Wright, while on a two-year secondment from Microsoft as HMRC’s Chief Digital and Information Officer, made a powerful gesture at a Black History Month breakfast we hosted in October, by asking the ethnic minority women in the room to stand up and be celebrated for their individual strengths and contributions. Sharon White, former Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury and the new Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, spoke with me about her inspirational career journey (you can watch this here). And Natalie Campbell, Civil Service Commissioner, has empowered colleagues through the events she’s facilitated for ethnic minority colleagues and as a member of our senior boards.

As we enter 2020, the Year of Inclusion, I’d repeat a message I shared at that Black History Month breakfast. We can all choose to be visible leaders in our approach to promoting and increasing ethnic diversity. We can lead by example, wherever we are in our career journey. We can choose to recruit diversely, listen and manage and lead diversely. That message is not just for one month in every year: it’s for every day, every month, every year.

Sharing and comments

Share this page

1 comment

  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Happy New Year Richard!

    Thank you for sharing with us your personal reflections as the Civil Service Race Champion. I must commend you for your continued support and for your efforts in trying to make a difference.

    I have been with my current Civil Service Department over 28 years and I have been encouraged in the significant change that has taken place within the working environment in terms of race and diversity and inclusion.

    We have certainly seen an increase in effort to engage with staff from the BAME community to determine what the challenges are that they are facing on a daily basis and work undertaken to address these.

    I would also agree that much has been done to try to increase the visibility of BAME role models whom will hopefully inspire others that there are opportunities to progress in their career.

    Certainly would like to commend the brilliant work that the FCO Staff Assocition BAME Network have been doing in making the FCO a more inclusive environment.

    I do however feel that we still need to acknowledge that the Senior Membership of the Civil Service is less than a true reflection of the diverse make up of modern society and that there is still more work that needs to be done before we can celebrate.