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The Irony In The UK Govt's Call For Inclusion By UK plc

Posted on March 29, 2017 at 8:20 PM

There are three options, as I see it, regarding a judgement on the timing of the UK government's call on FTSE 350 CEOs to get serious about inclusion - that very politically correct word added on to 'diversity'.'Inclusion' means race, ethnicity, people of colour, actually representing the reality of Britain on the streets in its boardrooms.

(If this blog seems fiesty, let's say it might be re-channeled energy: Article 50 was triggered today, to take Britain out of the EU and no, I am unapologetically not a fan of that. We don't know what the Brexit baby will look like yet - and I wrote about this on Forbes this week.I have also written about Britain, race and boardrooms many times- both here and on Forbes and the search engines work).

Let's start by giving Prime MInister Theresa May's government the benefit of the doubt, on timing. The announcement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the link above was made yesterday, presumably to make sure it happened before today, when (obviously) no journalist would be interested.

It could also be that BEIS needs help with its comms team, and timings. But I suspect we are going to see a lot more of this sort of timing, where things that matter - due to bad scheduling and overworked resources - get overlooked, for the most part as it's all hands on deck for Brexit and the de-tanglement from the EU and EU law.

The third interpretation, of course, is 'unconscious bias.' As someone who has followed - and helped publicise - government attempts to increase diversity in UK plc for years, I find they bizarrely often occur at times when they are not likely to get a lot of traction. It does make one question the levels of commitment, just a little.

Some of the media does well in raising such issues. The Guardian had a story on the first female black footballer - a case of mistaken identity. To quote from the Guardian story (emphasis is mine):

"For Sabrina Mahfouz, who co-wrote the production with the poet Hollie McNish, the very fact that such an important pioneer could be forgotten, and mistaken, says everything about the under-representation of women, and in particular women of colour.

“I also think it is really important to constantly remind people that there was immigration to this country from thousands of years ago, and that those people had always been involved in the things that are now known as ‘British’."

I shared it to my Facebook business page @DinaMedlandWordsThatWork - where people are engaged and do get excited....with little traction. I have found the same thing to be true of every single post I have written about racial inclusion.....but write about high heels, and you can suddenly hit the mega number of eyeballs, it seems.

I wonder if people just read the things to which they connect, anyway.

Or...a more sinister prospect ? Is there an algorithm that downplays race ?

Nah. It's just post-Brexit exhaustion, surely, on my part to consider such a thing. But it's one to think about - especially if you care about changing the face of British business.

UK Business Minister Margot James has now written to the chief executives of all FTSE 350 companies urging them to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, says the press release.

In her letter, she called on the UK’s largest companies to take up key recommendations from the Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith Review into black and ethnic minority progression in the workplace, including:

publishing a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay

setting aspirational targets

nominating a board member to deliver on those targets

How high do you think this will be on the agenda of any FTSE 350 plc boardroom  today?

Having watched my evening news like many of you, I am well aware of the immigration concerns of many who are delighted that today the 'Leave' vote in the referendum was respected. But if this government now focuses on the white working class voters who were largely behind that vote - and somehow this inclusion strategy gets derailed, it is a recipe for disaster - and not an issue on which to play politics.

Thoughts on a postcard, please or tweet at me @dinamedland.

PS This blog is in talks about sponsorship with a number of firms, and while I thank them for being interested, it may be more than they bargained for. It does not happen often. But you have to believe in my right to independent editorial comment, always with the best of intentions on governance and ethics. Thank you for reading.

Categories: Inclusion, Behaviour, Scrutiny