Why diverse leadership now can reduce risks in the future

Sandra Kerr OBE, calls for diverse voices at the top as significant policy decisions affect everyone.  

Sandra Kerr OBE Race equality campaign director

Last week the Prime Minister was speaking out about the fact that the proportion of prisoners who are black is higher than their representation in the UK, and has asked the MP David Lammy to investigate why this is the case. I welcome his commitment to tackling this issue – especially as a criminal record can present an additional barrier to finding work.  If there had been a focus on leadership earlier on, this review might not be necessary.

We know that leadership is an issue that matters to many people in the workplace; over 3,000 respondents to our Race at Work survey commented about leadership on race and diversity in their workplaces. Yet this is not being reflected in the actions of senior leaders, with only a third of Race at Work respondents able to identify a senior race or diversity champion within their organisation. We also know that only one in 16 senior leaders is from a BAME background, compared to one in eight people of working age.

However, having different perspectives throughout an organisation – including at the top, where the most significant policy decisions are being made – will reduce the risk of ‘groupthink’, where everyone behaves in a particular way. It is ‘groupthink’ which leads to decisions that were considered no doubt to be ‘fine and appropriate’ at the time turning into investigations such as this in the future. This investigation amplifies the need to unblock the talent pipeline and ensure that BAME employees are represented at senior levels, so that diverse perspectives and voices can be heard around the table when key decisions are being made that either directly or indirectly have an impact on us all

The Financial Reporting Council was consulting recently on the diversity of nominations to board positions. I welcome this review and believe it is something that the private, public and voluntary sectors need to encourage in order to increase diversity.

Although the government review is focussing on the police force and the prisons sector, this infographic shows that we all have work to do to address unconscious bias within all parts of the criminal justice system and sectors more widely to ensure that diverse talent is able to progress, flourish and be part of key policy decisions at all levels.