by LAUREN CODLING
A NEW strategy to increase diversity in the public sector was launched by the civil service on Monday (16).
The Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy aims to make the civil service the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020.
Proposals include building a dedicated ethnic minority programme with the aim of improving the representation of ethnic minority staff at senior levels; publishing data on progress on diversity and inclusion targets by April 2018 and establishing a new framework for measuring inclusion.
Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood told Eastern Eye that the civil service must make sure they aren’t just “ticking a box” when it comes to employing ethnic minorities.
“I could actually quite easily fill a number of positions with non-white Oxford graduates, but [that would be] missing the point,” Sir Jeremy said. “What you want is people with all different sorts of outlook on life. If you’ve got 10 people in a room who all have the same background and look the same, there is a good chance they will all have the same view, so where is the challenge coming from?”
In his view, it is better to work alongside people from different social backgrounds, who have lived in different parts of the country and have different perspectives, as then “you’ve got a real challenge”.
Since 2012, the proportion of ethnic minority civil servants has increased rapidly from 9.4 per cent to 11.2 per cent in 2017. However, only 4.6 per cent of senior positions are held by members of ethnic minority communities.
The strategy also hopes to encourage those with disabilities to pursue a career in the public sector.
In response to the racial disparity audit released by the government last week, in which Asian and ethnic minority groups were revealed to be more likely to be poor and in “persistent poverty”, the cabinet secretary said schemes such as outreach in schools and apprenticeship programmes were being put into place to make sure people from all social-economic backgrounds had the opportunity to work in the civil service.
“Outreach in schools is trying to convey a sense of what is going on in the civil service – it isn’t just a bunch of posh white boys,” Sir Jeremy explained. “It comes with everything that happens in the country and we need people from every single background that can serve the public better.”
The civil service has already introduced measures such as name-blinding curriculum vitae to ensure that racial prejudice does not restrict a person’s chance at employment.
In February 2017 the BBC sent two CVs to potential employers, one with a traditional English name and one with a Muslim name. The result was that the English-sounding CV generated three times the number of interviews, despite the qualifications being identical.
Sir Jeremy acknowledged that the strategy would take time before results are evident, stating the process must be “relentless years of focus”.
“By 2020, we want to have cracked the problem,” he said. “We want people within the civil service to be out there and say, ‘it’s a great place to work, whatever your background.’”