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Public sector leadership less ethnically diverse than private

There is significantly less ethnic diversity in public sector leadership roles across the UK than with senior roles in FTSE 100 companies, a new study has revealed. 

The Green Park Public Service Leadership 5,000 survey, commissioned by executive recruitment consultancy Green Park, breaks down public service leadership by gender, ethnicity and cultural background, and analyses the top two layers of leadership. 

A key finding of the report was that there are virtually no employees of black or Chinese/other Asian origin in the top four grades within the civil service. And, more generally, ethnic minorities are under-represented in the senior civil service roles, relative to the population at large, by a factor of six to one. 

The report found that the Department for International Development and the Treasury perform best on ethnic diversity in leadership roles, while the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department for Communities and Local Government are amongst the worst. 

Former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips, who is chair of Green Park Diversity Analytics, said: “The organisations included in the Green Park Public Sector 5,000 all exist to serve the public and are supported in some way by the taxpayer.  Because of this they carry a responsibility to engage the widest possible range of individuals as possible, above all in their leadership and governance. 

“While our research does find some encouraging trends, such as the presence of women at senior roles in non-urban local authorities, other areas are much more disappointing. Bizarrely, London, the most diverse area of the country with a 40% non-White population, shows a less diverse local authority leadership than the FTSE.” 

Although gender diversity is better generally in the public sector than the private sector, women still appear unlikely to break through the glass ceiling to the top public jobs as they are to the top FTSE 100 roles. For example, women leaders are least likely to be found in the most powerful functions – Chief Officer and Corporate Resources & Finance – and more likely in areas such as children’s services. 

Additionally, of the 268 people in leadership roles in the most prominent public bodies outside government and local authorities – such as the Bank of England, NHS England and the BBC, just six were not white. 

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We need the best and brightest civil servants, regardless of their background. The Civil Service compares favourably to many organisations in terms of the diversity of its workforce – but we must do better.” 

The Green Park Public Service Leadership 5,000 survey examined the background of 3,465 individuals in total: 525 individuals in the charities sector, 1,096 individuals in UK central government, 1,578 individuals in local government and 268 individuals in other public bodies. 

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