Harman launches Public Appointments equality drive

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, has launched a new cross government drive to increase the number of women, black, Asian and minority (BAME) ethnic people and disabled people on the boards of public bodies.

Women represent 51% of the population, but only make up 33.3% of public appointees. 14% of the working-age population has a disability, but disabled people make up only 5% of public appointees. Less than 6% of public appointees are from an ethnic minority background, despite the overall ethnic minority population being nearly 11%.

The new cross government action plan co-led by the Government Equalities Office and Cabinet Office will include measures such as mentoring and raising awareness, as well as setting targets on gender, disability and ethnicity. The aim is that by 2011, 50% of new appointments will be women, 14% will be disabled people and 11% will be ethnic minorities.

Harriet Harman Minister for Women and Equality said:

“Diversity brings fresh perspectives, new ideas and broader experience on which to draw and ensuring diverse groups play an active role in public life strengthens our democracy. We all stand to benefit from the improved decision making that can come from a wider range of contributions.”

Michael Foster, Minister for Government Equalities Office said:

“Public bodies take decisions that affect and impact on all our lives. From funding the arts, sports and science to providing essential healthcare. From safeguarding the environment to promoting human rights. And from protecting the rights and interests of consumers to delivering justice. It is essential that the people appointed to these bodies reflect the country in which we live and the public they serve. The new measures will ensure the best people, wherever they’re from, know about the opportunities available.”

The measures set out in the new action plan include:

  • A new mentoring scheme to work with high potential applicants, ‘near hits’ – those who didn’t get through to the final stages when applying for a public appointment role.
  • A media campaign around national and regional events to promote opportunities in public bodies.
  • Better use of the internet to raise awareness of public appointments.
  • Gathering a stronger evidence base on the barriers faced by under-represented groups when applying for appointments.

Tina Fahm, a black public appointee on various government boards and Director of her own management training company, said: 

“Until equality of opportunity in public life becomes a reality our nation will not realize the talents of many of its citizens. Government led policy initiatives cannot be the entire answer. Ultimately it is about women, BAME and disabled people recognising that they have a role to play in making change happen and having the courage to come forward.”

As part of the drive, The Women’s National Commission has produced a new booklet ‘Women in Public Life Today’ which explains the benefits of holding a public appointment, how they work and how to apply. It also profiles real-life case studies of women who have become school governors and magistrates and includes women who have used their professional skills to help them undertake a public appointment role. Go to www.thewnc.org.uk to download a copy.

Common Purpose, a leadership development organisation polled over 600 Common Purpose graduates to explore attitudes, motivations and barriers when applying for national appointments. The findings show BAME people were a fifth less successful compared to their White counterparts. Nearly two in ten disabled people had applied for a national public appointment and been unsuccessful, compared with only one in ten respondents who did not have disabilities. www.commonpurpose.org.uk


Posted by, Asif Yusuf



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