Skip to main content
Civil Service

Civil Service Year of Inclusion: what inclusion means to me... Cheryl Avery

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Diversity and inclusion, Good management, Our Civil Service
Cheryl Avery, Executive Director HMPPS, Prison Reform

Hi, my name is Cheryl Avery, and this is what inclusion means to me….
The dictionary defines inclusion as “the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups.”

So, if we truly aspire to be a Brilliant Civil Service how do we promote and embody these behaviours?

There have been the occasions when I have walked into a room to meet someone (with whom I have previously only spoken to on the phone or exchanged emails), and there is the moment when their realisation dawns that I look different to the person with whom they were expecting to meet; the non-verbal microaggressions hang heavy in the air. This is the type of non-inclusive behaviours that my colleagues from the BAME community experience on a regular basis.

I have previously spoken publicly about what it means to be one of only a small minority of BAME directors in the Civil Service, and the level of responsibility that I feel goes with being part of such an important group.

I referred to this group as the “Hidden Figures” to highlight the fact that we need to identify opportunities to raise our respective profiles. We need to show staff who these role models are and therefore promote the fact that the opportunity to progress into the Senior Civil Service for BAME staff is a reality.

In a bid to increase the level of representation of BAME and disabled staff in the SCS across Government, every department has agreed to a series of flow targets, as well as identifying opportunities to promote and develop BAME staff. I am hopeful that change is going to come.

Recently I have had the opportunity to work alongside Alex Chisholm and Sir Richard Heaton, as well as other leaders who champion speaking “truth to power” when it comes to talking about race issues. We need more leaders to mirror this behaviour.

Throughout October Black History Month we celebrate the achievements of black civil servants. I’m encouraged to see green shoots of change appearing through positive achievements in music, sport, film and across government.

However, I also want to take this opportunity this month to issue a call to arms to encourage BAME staff to “…be the change that they want to see…”. I know that my personal experiences may be different to many colleagues out there, but the challenges are the same and we need to keep pushing forward. Which other organisation would give you the platform or the opportunity to deliver such a powerful message?

As the author Maya Angelou wrote

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Richard Heaton posted on

    Cheryl - nicely put, as always! Hope you’re very well.

    • Replies to Richard Heaton>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thank you Richard, your endorsement as always is greatly received. I am well thanks and I hope that you are too.

  2. Comment by Sarah Hurrell posted on

    Thanks Cheryl, please keep challenging gender & race prejudice & rising in the way Maya challenges (every meeting / morning as well as career wise!).

    Thanks for being an inspiration to those that follow. With your actions & precedent, you’ll set up others to go even further than you - it’s always a easier to get to the bar that others have pushed first.

    As a white woman, also in a senior position, I know I have privilege, but over the years I have also suffered unconscious & sometimes blatant bias. Let me know if I can assist - working together using our privilege we achieve so much more!

    • Replies to Sarah Hurrell>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Hi Sarah, thank you for your support and sharing your own experiences

  3. Comment by Matt McCabe posted on

    Thank you Cheryl,

    Just taking the time to reflect is noteworthy and often not practiced.

    It is so important to continue celebrating our successes in tackling issues that might marginalize others whilst recognising there is still more that can be done!

    Very nice article!

    • Replies to Matt McCabe>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thank you Matt

  4. Comment by Brian Stanislas MBE posted on

    Great blog Cheryl ??

    • Replies to Brian Stanislas MBE>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thanks Brian

    • Replies to Brian Stanislas MBE>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thank you Brian

  5. Comment by Ruel Cole posted on

    Hello Cheryl,

    Without prejudice

    What inclusion means to me, is the removal of the colour bar regarding black people working at Euston train station in 1966, by a bold and brave guard by the name of Asquith Xavier, who was told he could not applied for promotion because he was black. And we should honour his name within the MoJ/HMCTS by putting up a plaque and naming a room after him at Petty France and in the Parliament. And my reason is Parliament make the law and the MoJ/HMCTS apply and enforce the law. I fully support you in what you have written on your blog and the point you have made “I also want to take this opportunity this month to issue a call to arms to encourage BAME staff to” “be the change that they want to see”.

    • Replies to Ruel Cole>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thanks Ruel

  6. Comment by Funke Oham posted on

    Love your post Cheryl. Indeed we should be the change we want to see.

    • Replies to Funke Oham>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thank you Funke

  7. Comment by Bernadette Thompson posted on

    Great Blog Cheryl

    “So, if we truly aspire to be a Brilliant Civil Service how do we promote and embody these behaviours?”

    Thanks for living these behaviours

    • Replies to Bernadette Thompson>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thanks Bernie, means a lot coming from such a great role model like you

  8. Comment by Tola Ayoola posted on

    Thank you Cheryl for being so inspirational and for your care. Thanks for your continual support to many colleagues and across our ethnic minority communities. You a true ambassador and champion.

    • Replies to Tola Ayoola>

      Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

      Thank you Tola, following your lead