Birmingham council plans ‘Rooney’ job shortlist rule, new school curriculum to boost diversity “You only have to look around the boardrooms and top tables of many organisations to see they are not fully representative of the communities they serve,” says John Cotton, cabinet member of social inclusion, community safety and equalities. (Photo: iStock)
Eastern Eye Staff
ENGLAND’s largest local authority is planning to implement the ‘Rooney Rule’ – shortlisting at least one woman and one ethnic minority candidate for job vacancies – to boost diversity.
The Birmingham City Council believes the move would help negate criticism over tackling inequality, and slow progress in terms of enhancing diversity. The council, reports said, wanted to be “leading by example”.
Speaking on the Rooney Rule proposal, Council leader Ian Ward said “tackling inequality must be everyone’s business”.
The rule — named after American football coach Dan Rooney, who had championed the cause of shortlisting ethnic minorities for top jobs in sports bodies – also pushes for more diversity in interview panels.
John Cotton, cabinet member of social inclusion, community safety and equalities, said the council aimed to work with “private and voluntary sectors, educators and neighbourhood groups” to spur changes “across the board”.
“Frankly, I accept progress at times has not been fast enough or sustainable enough,” he said.
“We can try and ensure the workforce reflects the city it serves. We’ve got to build on the work we’ve done, politically.”
Cotton brushed aside concerns over the proposal “setting one community against another”.
“The facts speak for themselves,” he said. “You only have to look around the boardrooms and top tables of many organisations to see they are not fully representative of the communities they serve.”
Measures initiated earlier had clearly “not been enough to change that pattern”, he noted.
The Rooney Rule move could be seen as a cumulative effect of recent developments that put the issue of lack of diversity under the spotlight.
In 2017, West Midlands mayor Andy Street had commissioned a diversity review titled ‘Leaders Like You’ — which highlighted a “significant diversity gap” — as he noted that “meetings of regional leaders involved many people who looked like me — white, male, middle-aged”.
In July 2020, Commonwealth Games Federation chief Dame Louise Martin quit the board, after the Birmingham 2022 organising committee was panned for constituting an “almost entirely white executive team”.
Besides the Rooney Rule, transformation plans of the council included developing a curriculum with schools and local historians to popularise “unheard stories” of Birmingham’s diversity.
The council has also proposed a “review of the appropriateness of local monuments and statues”, and a new policy to name roads and public places in a manner to truly “reflect the city’s history”.
“If we want a fairer society,” Cotton stressed, “we will all have to work harder and faster to deliver change that people right across our society desperately need.”