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UK Pushing for Ethnic and Gender Diversity in Public Sector

Ethnic and gender diversity are on the rise in the UK public service sector.

Representation in the public service sector has been increasing since 2012, with the proportion of new female public appointees rising from 33 percent to 49 percent, and ethnic minorities increasing from 7 percent to 9 percent.

The rise of inclusion of women and ethnic minorities doesn’t stop there. The number of female public appointees is expected to be half of all 5,500 members within the next five years, according to a report by the UK Cabinet Office.

Currently, 43 percent of the 5,500 members are women and 10 percent of those are ethnic minorities.

Creating more inclusive public boards opens pathways for wider representation of communities, diverse opinions, new perspectives, different ideas to solve public issues, and broader experiences. To accomplish this, the Cabinet Office revealed a 10-point action plan.

“We need diverse ideas and perspectives at the helm of our public bodies, so it is vital that public appointees truly reflect the society they serve,” said Chris Skidmore, the minister for the constitution. “[The plan] sets out how we will make public appointments even more open and accessible to all.”

Some goals in the plan include establishing a mentoring program and developing a charter that sets standards for inclusivity within public service organizations, as well as outreach events for minorities.

Peter Riddell, the commissioner for public appointments, said the plan’s purpose is designed to encourage more diverse applicants to apply for positions on public boards. He stated that success requires a sustained will on the part of ministers and public bodies.

Big Lottery Fund board member Natalie Campbell said women were scarce in leadership positions, but the demographics are changing as work environments are now aiming for more inclusion.

“Around the table it is a rarity, but every year I’m seeing more and more women coming through,” Campbell said. “I’m seeing more and more women of color coming through, and more women from different socio-economic backgrounds, and that’s equally important.”

The UK has long seen inequality within its service sector in regards to minority representation. Various laws in previous years have been made to combat the disparity such as the Race Relations Act of 1965 and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. Concepts from those laws were then grouped together in the Equality Act of 2010. The 2010 Act then served as a basis for the cabinet’s action plan.

Campbell, who is an ethnic minority herself, applied three times to Big Lottery Fund before being accepted. “I think a lot of people either don’t apply or they stop at the first hurdle, when they get the first ‘no,’” she said.

Featured Image by Chris Breeze on Flickr

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