PM backs Mayors campaign for diversity in company directors

The lack of diversity at the very top of major companies and public bodies risks damaging the region’s economy and wider society, Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street warned today.

He said the leadership of private and public sector organisations needed to better reflect the diverse nature of the West Midlands so that talent and important perspectives were not sidelined or ignored.

The Mayor urged organisations to embrace a series of recommendations set out in a new study commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to look at ways to improve opportunities for people from under-represented parts of society.

The West Midlands Leadership Commission, chaired by journalist Anita Bhalla, has spent nine months reaching out into communities and institutions to give a voice to the views, real-life experiences and ideas of people across the region. The Commission’s report – Leaders Like You - has focused on the experiences of black and ethnic minority communities, women, the LGBT community, disabled people and lower social economic groups such as white working-class boys.

Among the recommendations is a call for existing leaders to ensure diversity in their workplaces, identify talent and then mentor and coach that talent to produce future leaders. The Mayor said:

“It’s not acceptable that certain parts of society are largely invisible when you look at the leadership of our major institutions and companies. The diversity of our region is one of our greatest assets but this lack of representation at leadership level can lead to a sense of alienation amongst certain groups and a feeling that it is not possible to get to the top.

“Yet greater diversity in leadership can bring fresh talent and alternative ways of looking at an increasingly globalised world and that can generate greater prosperity and less marginalisation and disaffection amongst excluded groups.

“So I echo the Commission’s call for existing leaders to take on board the findings and recommendations of this report, think about what difference their actions can make and help the West Midlands become a place where everyone can fulfil their potential.”

The West Midlands Leadership Commission is made up of 19 role models who have succeeded in the worlds of business, the arts, health and public services and who personally understand the issues of under-representation. Their report was presented at the ‘Leaders Like You’ conference at Great Barr Academy in Birmingham which was attended by members of the Commission, students from the academy and senior figures from the private and public sector.

The report has been shaped by strong academic input from the universities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Birmingham City, Warwick and Coventry. The work was pulled together by the University of Birmingham’s IRiS (Institute for Research into Superdiversity). It found that while the West Midlands has a better rate than many other regions in the adoption of equal opportunity policies and practices more needed to be done.

While women tend to be better represented at leadership level in the West Midlands public sector, particularly the NHS, they are poorly represented in leadership positions within the education sector and female directors of large, private sector companies are a “rare sight”.


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