You may have seen recent coverage about the Northern Powerhouse conference, with only 1 in 7 female speakers, and none included in event publicity. For those of us who work in the public sector, we know that this does not reflect the diversity of talent in our organisations, or the communities we serve.
When I was elected as Solace President at our AGM in October, I made it clear as early as my inaugural speech, that diversity in our sector would be something I was determined to tackle head on in terms of entry and access as well as representation at a senior level; who sits at the top table, and who designs content and is heard at conferences and public events.
I write to ask you to join me in this. Where you see a single gender panel or board, please consider taking a stand – declining your own participation for that reason, or positively suggesting colleagues you know who may have been overlooked. I would also encourage you to ask the politicians you work with to consider this, as well as your organisation’s contractors or business and suppliers.
This is absolutely not about naming and shaming, protest, or finger pointing, it’s simply true that we all have a part to play in making sure a full diversity of voices are heard as we grapple with the big decisions of the day. We know that better decisions are made when we do this. It shouldn’t always be up to women and BME colleagues to battle their way in, but for us all to make sure we create inclusive spaces. Whilst I realise I am focusing a lot on gender here I know we also have much more to do on the whole diversity scale. That said, making sure that the half of the population that are female are adequately represented would be marvelous progress to begin with.
To be frank, I realise that Solace as an organisation has not always been at the forefront of this – though good work has been done by particular colleagues – but under my Presidency, I am absolutely determined to change this. Whilst I’m writing to you as Solace President, this is not a personal campaign. I speak with the support and on behalf of many. This is about living and acting out our public service values for real.
I look forward to your support in this matter. If you have any thoughts about how we take this issue forward, please do get in touch – I want to hear your ideas. Likewise, if you would like more information on Solace membership or the work Solace is doing on leadership, please ask.