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Equality & Diversity

This paper sets out our commitment and expertise in the area of equalities and diversity. It forms part of a wider study undertaken in response to a request by the Cabinet Office and sent to major recruitment organisations involved in top management appointments. It demonstrates our ability to work alongside public sector agencies in supporting and shaping their diversity policies in relation to senior manager recruitment.

The wider context

The White Paper ‘Fairness for All’, in setting out the legislation for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights [CEHR], highlighted the challenges faced by the commission in creating a more equal society and promoting a more robust human rights culture. The inequalities that exist across health, education, criminal justice, housing and employment are well documented.

The focus of this piece is on top management recruitment. Leadership is critical in creating a culture in which diversity can flourish. Appointing the right leader can have a significant impact on an organisation and how it moves forward on the equalities agenda.

The gender equality duty, alongside that of the race and disability duty, requires all public bodies to demonstrate that they are actively promoting equalities across the range of their activities. The focus is now on measuring outcomes - identifying where progress has stalled and consulting widely with relevant groups about proposals to tackle obstacles that impede change. The data below suggests that until equalities are embedded into the psyche of an organisation little will change.


The challenges are significant. Women dominate local government yet men fill the bulk of the top jobs. In a recent survey it was noted that 75% of council workers are women, mostly concentrated in junior and part-time jobs, yet only 17.5% of women represent local authority chief executives.

In the private sector the situation is equally dire. Many women are jumping off the employment ladder before they hit the glass ceiling. Childcare costs, the lack of flexible working arrangements and a male dominated boardroom culture are cited as defining factors to this. A recent study showed a dramatic fall in the number of women in senior management positions in companies in the FTSE 350 over the last five years – in 2002 nearly 40% of women occupied senior management posts, five years later that figure had fallen to 22%.

The Equal Opportunities Commission found that 6,000 women were 'missing’ from top slots. Based on the annual analysis of FTSE 100 companies, the number of directorships held by women fell in 2006 after rising in previous years.

However, there is some limited good news in the fact that the pay gap between men and women in the very top roles has closed. Despite this, women generally still earn significantly less than their male equivalents for occupying similar roles, have more caring responsibilities and are concentrated in lower skilled jobs which in turn reduce their choice and opportunity.

To avoid the ‘glass ceiling’ more women are setting up their own businesses – creating their own culture and achieving a critical mass of women in senior positions.


Using government figures, people with disabilities suffer disproportionately in the employment market. They are significantly more likely to be out of work and once out of work, are less likely to move back into employment.

It is estimated that about 10 million adults fall within the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act. Of these nearly seven million are likely to be of working age and are seven times more likely to be out of work than people without disabilities.

People with mental health problems and those with learning disabilities are likely to suffer the most in the job market and will experience greater discrimination in attempting to secure work. Once in work, those people with disabilities currently earn less and are less likely to secure promotions.

Ethnic minorities, older people and sexual orientation

Across the range of public sector bodies people from black and minority ethnic communities are significantly under-represented in senior management positions. Less than 1% of NHS trusts and regional bodies are led by black or minority ethnic managers, yet minority ethnic staff make up 13% of the workforce.

At present 3.5% of front line police are from minority ethnic communities set against the 8% of minority ethnic people that make up the country’s economically active workforce. Equally, little has been achieved in increasing the numbers of black officers in senior positions in regional police forces.

In local government the situation is little better. Black and minority ethnic people are significantly under-represented in top management positions across the different service sectors. Of increasing concern is the under-representation of women and people from minority ethnic communities in politically active positions in local government. The figure for women councillors has remained constant at 29%, for non-white councillors the figure dropped from 4% to 3.5% set against a total non-white population of 9.5%.

Government research identifies that 45-59 year olds form the largest group in the labour force. Evidence suggests that much expertise and wisdom is lost as older people are increasingly excluded from the labour market. Equally, policies that address sexual orientation need to be made explicit. Homophobic and bullying attitudes need to be challenged. The issue of leadership is central to creating a culture where discriminatory behaviour is challenged.

Talent management – the capacity to make a difference

The research consensus is that there is no systematic and coordinated approach in the public and private sectors to nurturing the next generation of leaders. Talent management and succession planning is not strategically built into business planning cycles and is still very much an intuitive and ‘gut’ feeling response.

A recent survey of 1,500 public and private sector organisations revealed that 74% of them did not have a developed plan to support aspiring leaders. More tellingly, only 20% had active diversity strategies in place and a majority reported that diversity was still seen as an ‘add-on’ and not an integral part of the organisational culture.

The research also revealed that only 40% of employees have annual one-to-one career discussions and only 30% of staff enjoy robust appraisals of any sort. International evidence suggests that talent management is not just about filling organisational gaps – 90% of companies worldwide named talent management as their top priority and 38% said that leadership instability was a serious and growing problem.

Practising what we preach

At GatenbySanderson we are moving quickly to make equality and diversity integral to our everyday work practices. We have not fully achieved this goal but we can demonstrate the following:

  • 75% of our workforce are women
  • 66% of our leadership team are women
  • 19% of our workforce are from black and minority ethnic communities
  • 50% of our chief executive appointments to local authorities have been women
  • 30% of all our senior manager appointments to local authorities have been women
  • 6% of all our senior manager appointments to local authorities were from minority ethnic backgrounds
  • 3% have declared a disability

Our monitoring arrangements are critical to our efforts. The CEHR make the point that collecting reliable and transparent data is essential – knowing about your performance and where improvements can be made. We focus on outcomes and not the process. We interrogate our data on a regular basis, which in turn:

  • Feeds into our ongoing training on equalities
  • Helps us to shape our business planning discussions and set our equality targets where we need to make improvements; for example, increasing the number of black managers onto our leadership team
  • Informs our discussions with local authorities when demonstrating our ability to recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds. Our search process is extensive and informed and will actively encourage a diverse range of candidates to apply

Bradford as a case illustration – Strategic Director of Services to Children and Young People

An effective way to demonstrate our approach to equalities is in the case of the Bradford case study. We were recently asked to recruit for the newly created post of Strategic Director of Children’s Services.

Bradford is one of the most diverse cities in the UK and in early 2000 was one of the northern towns that experienced racial disturbances. The post of Strategic Director is seen as a cornerstone by politicians, the chief executive and the community, and demonstrates an improving of education performance and a moving forward on the government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda following the Climbie tragedy.

Consulting on the brief and identifying key issues

Politicians and senior officers were clear in their expectations that the successful candidate needed to have robust and well-developed leadership skills as well as experience of managing in a diverse and multi-cultural community. We responded in the following way:

  • We met with politicians of the three major political parties to discuss the key issues in the community and in particular their views about the challenges for the newly integrated children’s service. A central concern for all was the under-performance of particular pockets of children in the education service of whom a number came from minority ethnic communities.
  • We liaised with the Chief Executive who also identified school under-performance as a key issue. However, this was placed in a social cohesion context with the need to avoid the alienation of particular groups of children who had been let down by a failing education system and who might feel little commitment to their community.
  • Ensuring that equality and diversity were integral features of the whole interview process at both the long list and short list stages.

The topics for interview

Ensuring that equality was a central issue during the interview discussions, we asked candidates how they might deliver the following aims:

  • Putting in place effective preventive services, including integrating and supporting families with young children across the range of community groups, and supporting community cohesion.
  • Educational improvement for all children, raising attainment above the national average, and reducing community alienation for under-performing children.
  • Ensuring that the commissioning and procurement process provides relevant and culturally sensitive services to meet the needs of children from particular ethnic communities.
  • A workforce reform and development strategy to develop skills to support modern services and a workforce that reflects the community it serves.
  • Evidence of being able to embed equality of opportunity in the workplace through policies that support equal chances for all and tackles discrimination head-on.
  • Ensuring that equality and diversity was part of the mainstream agenda by building it into the service and business planning processes and undertaking impact assessments as new services are developed.
  • Demonstrating the skills to ensure that the children’s agenda reinforces and is compatible with the council’s wider community cohesion strategy. This is of pivotal importance given the new arrangements set out by the audit commission to evaluate local authorities community cohesion plans.


Effective leadership is the single most important factor in making equality a mainstream activity. It also remains the most elusive. At present the equalities agenda is driven by committed individuals and not built into the fabric of organisations.

Systems and processes are important but culture is central. Our focus on leadership during the interviews was pivotal. In particular, we focused on identifying:

  • Someone who could give the service vision and focus by setting out the direction of travel and ensuring that diversity was central to the vision.
  • Someone with presence and visibility; a ‘known’ leader prepared to debate the issues and to ensure that diversity is ‘on the agenda’.
  • Individuals with a strong capacity for clear and critical thinking. This means getting to the heart of the matter with a good ability to challenge underlying assumptions and cutting through arguments that ‘sideline’ diversity and equality issues.
  • A positive role model; someone whose behaviour is fair, transparent, ethical and consistent. Only with these skills can they hope to create a culture where discriminatory behaviour is not tolerated.

It was felt that someone with these qualities would be likely to create a culture where the equalities agenda could gain root and become embedded.

Now a market leader and growing

We have grown and developed our business quickly in the last three years to the extent that we are now market leaders in local government recruitment. We have done this by understanding the government’s reform programme for the public sector as well as attracting high calibre consultants and partners.

A focused commitment to the equalities agenda is central to our recruitment of staff. We are developing in the following ways with diversity in mind:

  • Expanding our interim management capability. Senior managers placed by us are often in their mid-fifties, either having taken a retirement package or made a conscious choice to make interim management a career move. Our ability to successfully place and support older managers has a number of benefits; not losing scarce skills and ensuring local authorities maintain the momentum of pushing forward on their change programmes.
  • Developing our central government activity by building a team with central government experience which also has strong diversity expertise.
  • Ensuring that diversity is an integral part of our everyday activities by recruiting internal consultants who have a commitment to equalities; building equalities into our performance appraisal of staff; ensuring all staff attend our annual equalities training programme and making sure that the external technical assessors we use for assignments have equalities expertise.
  • Developing our talent management offering alongside our recruitment activity. We believe that talent management needs to be firmly located at the heart of diversity strategies by a coaching culture, nurturing the best talent and supporting mentoring programmes for aspiring black managers.


Our core business is top management recruitment. Effective leaders are central to moving forward on the equalities agenda.

We have sought to demonstrate our own commitment to equalities internally as well as the way we work with organisations to both support and shape their approach to recruiting leaders with a strong equalities perspective. We are not complacent, recognising that there is still further work to be done internally to improve our level of expertise, but we believe we have made a strong start.

If you would like to learn more about how GatenbySanderson can help you, contact us on Leeds 0113 205 6071, London 020 7426 3960 or Birmingham 0121 644 5700.