On Wednesday 10 October, Prospero House saw the ninth annual BAME into Leadership London conference: a day designed to help delegates reach their career ambitions, chaired by HMRC Assistant Director Tolu Oyelola.
Rupert McNeil, the Chief People Officer at the Cabinet Office, delivered an opening address on diversifying the civil service, where he looked at both “the journey so far and the road ahead”. “Please get on panels,” he asked delegates. “There is no requirement for the person on the panel to be the same level as the person being recruited, so I’m hoping over the next twelve months we’ll see more people in this room sitting on panels for SCS roles…you have a huge opportunity to influence if you’re sitting on the panel.” He urged those gathered to put themselves forward as Fast Stream and apprenticeship assessors, and to let him know if they came “across a problem in any interviewing process you’re involved in.”
Deputy Director of Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion, Jazz Bhogal, delivered a plenary address on “taking responsibility for your success”, and Department for Transport Permanent Secretary Bernadette Kelly gave a keynote address on “preparing for the future in uncertain times.”
Kelly described her belief that speaking truth unto power is even more important during such times. “Often when things go wrong in Government it’s because someone didn’t feel able to raise a red flag.” Accordingly, she underscored the need to create an environment where people felt able to say challenging things.
A panel chaired by FDA Executive Committee member Peter Green discussed “overcoming self-imposed barriers to success”. Krishna Dhanek of the Ministry of Defence started as a filing clerk at the RAF, and is now a member of the SCS working at the army’s headquarters. She spoke about the ways we perform acts of self-sabotage, such as self-defeating beliefs – “I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not tall enough, I’m not clever or senior enough” – and the need to “keep reminding ourselves we are good enough, we’re here, we’re enough to do this.”
Oyelola described applying for a role, and feeling unable to do the requisite self-promotion. “Where I come from, you don’t boast about yourself,” he explained. “It’s all about the collective. And the idea that even on paper I’d start blowing my own trumpet was something I couldn’t get my head around. I determined I wasn’t going to do it, because surely soon someone somewhere would realise it’s a pretty rubbish system.” He discussed the narrative he created – he was happy where he was, he had a young family, the system was rigged against him – meant he had “totally constructing [his] own glass ceiling.”
Fortunately, he realised his own stasis in time, fought against it and proceeded to become an Assistant Director.
Head of Campaigns and Compliance at the Competition and Markets Authority, Karen Campbell-White, asked delegates to think about “what is your personal story? What is your personal brand? Who is the person you put forward when you step in the room?” and insisted “your strength and confidence comes from being who you are, not from becoming someone else.”
EY Partner and 5th on EMPower’s Top 100 Ethnic Minority Executive Roles Models List Sanjay Bhandari delivered the closing address on ‘discovering yourself as a leader’. His speech was then followed by networking drinks.
During the day, a range of breakout sessions covered a diverse set of topics from finding your purpose, to performance appraisals, to building and maintaining networks, to networking with confidence, to civil service selection and promotion.
BAME into Leadership conferences will be taking place across the UK. To find your local event, see the BAME into Leadership website. FDA and Keystone members receive a significant discount when they book their places.