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Civil service fails to lead the way on diversity

By DPF Admin17th December 2014August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

Just a small fraction of Britain's government departments reflect the ethnic diversity of Britain, an investigation for ITV's Tonight programme has discovered.

A Freedom of Information request found that 24% of the 46 ministerial and non-ministerial departments have no senior civil servants from ethnic minorities.

The request also found that just five departments contained a proportion of ethnic minority staff equal to or above that found in the UK as a whole.

Furthermore, nearly a third of departments did not hold ethnic diversity information on their senior staff.

Of 46 civil service departments:

o  24% have no senior civil servants from ethnic minorities

o  Only five departments are representative of population

o  30% don't hold information on the diversity of senior staff

The damning finding comes as Business Secretary Vince Cable prepares to outline new guidelines for diversity across Britain's institutions.

In conversation with ITV News' Charlene White, Cable said the coalition would not be “setting specific targets” but said the country should be aiming for a position where people from minority backgrounds are “roughly represented in terms of their share of the population”.

Based on that number, Cable is likely to be looking at a guide of around 13% – the percentage of ethnic minorities in Britain at the time of the 2011 Census.

In response to the findings, Tonight asked the Civil Service's diversity champion, Richard Heaton, what was being done to address the imbalance.

He said that while the service has numerous schemes to bring people from a mix of backgrounds in at lower levels, what it was “not so good at” was “converting” those people into senior staff.

The problem doesn't end there – it extends deeper into Westminster, and right into the House of Commons.

Of the three major political parties:

o  The Conservatives have 11 ethnic minority MPs out of 303

o  Labour has 16 out of 257

o  The Lib Dems have none

Overall, ethnic minorities make up just 4% of elected MPs.

However, it would be unfair to suggest that the diversity deficit only occurs in the corridors of elected power – there is also a crisis in Britain's business world too.

Of 1,112 men and women on the boards of the top 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange, a mere eight are British nationals from ethnic minorities.

Dr Omar Khan from think-tank the Runnymede Trust says this has to do with “stereotypes about what people can do”.

We tend to think that black men are good at playing football but we don't necessarily see a lot of black high court judges.

We may think that Asian women might be a bit quiet in the office and so not suitable for a leadership material.


He says employers need to be more “open-minded” about the skills that people from different backgrounds can bring.

But could the world of business look to the example of US sport to solve its diversity problem?

The “Rooney rule” has prompted controversy since its introduction in American football just over ten years ago.

The rule dictates that NFL sides must interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operational jobs.

English football is an industry where a host of minority ethnic talent can be found in the ranks, yet out of 92 Football League clubs, only two have black managers.

Former Arsenal midfielder and now coach educator Paul Davis believes it is time to take America's lead – and says the Rooney Rule has been proven to bring more non-white coaches to the top of its sport.

Whether enforced or not, change is coming to Britain. At one internet start-up in Coventry visited by Tonight,, the average age is 25 and employees reflect changing attitudes to race and ethnicity in the workplace.

Professor Anthony Heath from Oxford University told Tonight he thinks the equality issue will be resolved eventually, but “it might take twenty years”.

“I don't really see why we need to be waiting twenty years, because there's a powerful social justice case, there's a powerful business case. Why don't we do it now?”

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