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https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2020/04/29/why-diversity-is-more-important-now-than-ever/

Why diversity is more important now than ever

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

In this series of posts I have the pleasure of introducing inspirational people who are working hard to make a positive difference to our Civil Service. This time round, I’m really pleased to welcome Sherin Aminossehe into her new role as Race Champion for the Ministry of Defence.

Sherin takes up the role at a time when civil servants are working differently and at great pace to manage and respond to the coronavirus emergency.  But as her blog notes, her aim is to keep a clear and consistent focus on promoting and championing ethnic diversity, and on supporting colleagues from different backgrounds.

One advance we've made over the past few years is that work on Diversity and Inclusion is no longer distinct from business as usual.  Our core business, whether in healthcare or foreign affairs, requires us to think about equality, fairness and differences in impact. And so making the Civil Service the most inclusive employer is an essential part of our jobs.

Of course we are not there yet.  But that consistency of approach means that when we face crises or change, we have the foundations in place to continue our efforts to ensure our service properly reflects the diversity of the citizens we serve.

The Civil Service is being stretched and challenged by the pandemic, as seldom before. It’s therefore great to see Sherin, and others, working so hard to role model visible leadership in these incredibly difficult circumstances.

Sherin Aminossehe writes: 

Sherin Aminossehe
Sherin Aminossehe, Race Champion, Ministry of Defence

I recently took up the mantle of Race Champion in the Ministry of Defence from the fabulous Cat Little. At that time I certainly didn’t think that I would not only have the challenge of undertaking the role remotely, but that I would also have to consider different ways to engage and communicate with our diverse community in the midst of the first global pandemic in more than a century.

You may note that in my opening paragraph I didn’t talk about keeping race, diversity and inclusion relevant. That is because these issues are always relevant. And, in some ways, even more so now, when we are facing a multitude of challenges that are unprecedented for the vast majority of us.

There is a wonderful Islamic saying that goes, “it takes more than one kind of flower to make a bouquet”. It is at these times of greatest challenge that we need to draw on our diversity. This will ensure that we come up with ideas and policies that are inclusive and benefit us all. Homogeneity of thought will not serve us well.

We are in the Civil Service Year of Inclusion. Given the challenging global, as well as national, context of the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more important that we leverage our diversity to inform and communicate critical messages – at a national level and to all parts of the population – that transcend socio-economic, cultural, language, and even technological barriers.

Talking about background, I thought I would share with you a little about mine. I came to the UK at the age of 6 from Iran, speaking only four words of English (‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘thank you’, just in case you were wondering). Not a typical background you may think for the Ministry of Defence, or even for the Civil Service. But diversity in all of its hues, whether of race, background, gender, orientation or thought, is one of our strengths as civil servants. It is how we can give the best advice and deliver the best policy outcomes.

This is why as Race Champion for the Ministry of Defence I am keen to work with our communities and networks to make our department as ethnically diverse as possible. We are developing a strategy that really promotes and champions ethnic diversity, and which will attract and nurture our best ethnic minority talent. We intend to incorporate more mentoring (both traditional and reverse); develop a broader cross-department communications and events programme; deliver bespoke talent development programmes; and review our vetting and recruitment processes.  

Just because we are in ‘lockdown’, or not in our usual places of work, doesn't mean that our ambitions for a brilliant, diverse and inclusive Civil Service should stop. If anything, that is now more important than ever before.

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2 comments

  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    I would like to start by commending Richard Heaton for his continued support as the the Civil Service Race Champion.

    Thank you Sherin for sharing with us your personal journey. I commend you for the work that you are doing in the MOD.

    As someone from the BAME community who has been with the Civil Service over 30+ years, I have been encouraged with the changes that I have seen in the Diversity and Inclusion space.

    I am however still disappointed that an element of racial inequality still exists within the workplace and that despite numerous discussions, various promotion programmes for BAME Staff and promises at Senior Level , the Civil Service is still failing to meet its D&I targets in respect of the promotion of BAME Officers into the SMS cadre!

    So, my one wish during this Year of Inclusion is that we start to see some tangible progress being made in this area, so that we can truly celebrate an inclusive and diverse organisation.

  2. Comment by Jess Niven posted on

    Really great blog, thanks Sherin and Richard. I look forward to hearing how your first months go!