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Tuesday 24 October 2023

Ethnic Minorities into Leadership: “Diversity is not a buzzword, it’s a necessity”


Organised by the FDA and Dods, Ethnic Minorities into Leadership helps to promote greater diversity within the civil service. Held across the UK and online, these events provide advice and workshops to help ethnic minority civil servants progress in their careers. Attendees hear from speakers in leadership positions across all sectors, but with a focus on the civil service. 

The latest event took place in October during Black History Month, at Central Hall in Westminster and was chaired for the first time by FDA Executive Committee member Haresh Bhatoa. 

Bhatoa told delegates that events like this are about demonstrating that “diversity is not a buzzword, it’s a necessity”. Ethnic Minorities into Leadership, Bhatoa shared, “is about highlighting the issues faced by ethnic minorities in the public sector during their daily personal and professional lives and not shying away from the difficult questions that may have uncomfortable answers”. 

The keynote speech was delivered by Head of Net Zero Governance Justin Placide. In addition to his day job, Placide is also Chair of the Civil Service Race Forum and the Co-chair of the Faith and Minority Ethic network.

Placide encouraged attendees to “make their presence felt” by realising what their strengths are and what qualities they have that leave lasting impressions on others. 

Sometimes, he continued, you may need help from you team or line manager “to empower” you to do this, by challenging you and putting you in new spaces and situations. For Placide, this is “the difference between a line manager and leader”. 

Placide stressed the importance of unions, networks and other organisations in building up the support required to break down barriers and challenge upwards. 

Deputy Director Strategic Partnering Programme at the Cabinet Office, Pamela Bobal, continued this message. She advised the key to advancing your career is getting over imposter syndrome – accepting you should be there and that you have valuable contributions that should be heard.

The afternoon address was given by Selvin Brown MBE, who started his civil service career as a filing clerk in the Cabinet Office in 1990 and is now Director for Net Zero Buildings. Additionally, he holds the roles of the Deputy Race Champion for the Civil Service and the Senior Responsible Owner for Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion in the Policy Profession. Brown made the uncomfortable observation that for all the progress made in advancing diversity in the civil service, there are currently no Permanent Secretaries from ethnic minorities.

Wanting a role where he can make change happen, Brown said that he had “always wanted to work in the civil service”. During the pandemic Brown worked on PPE policy and it was brought to his attention that the respirators worn by medical staff in hospitals were failing. It transpired that the designers of the respirators did not properly take into account the face shapes of women and ethnic minorities. Brown was then able to task the suppliers to provide equipment that did fit and would save lives. His session looked at the importance of creating a culture fir greater representation, inclusion and importantly, belonging for ethnic minority leaders in the civil service.


Attend Ethnic Minorities into Leadership in 2024

The FDA and Dods are arranging Ethic Minorities into Leadership events for next year, with a session in Birmingham already confirmed.

Visit the Ethnic Minorities into Leadership website to find out more about speakers and how you can register. Members of the FDA will receive a substantial discount.
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