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Leaders Like You


The West Midlands Combined Authority took a bold step when they asked for this Commission to be set up. From the outset we knew there was a deficit in the diversity of Leaders both in the private and public sectors but there was insufficient robust data to address
this issue. In setting up the Commission the CA knew that it too would have to open itself up to scrutiny.

In the region we are witnessing an exciting
and rapid shifting of the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and technological landscapes. Our region is a microcosm of the world marked by Globalisation, Digitisation and Diversity yet this does not touch on the lives of some of our most marginalised people.

There are three striking metrics of the West Midlands. This region is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the UK, and in Europe. In addition, Birmingham is one of the youngest cities in Europe with under 25 year olds making up 40%ofthepopulation.Itis also the only UK city in which the population is increasing and is set to become the first majority ‘black’ city in the UK by 2020.

Our research has found that a fuller profile of diversity
in leadership in the WMCA area is not possible to construct because of data gaps. Nevertheless, enough information is available to show there is a significant leadership diversity gap.

More analysis would be helpful on ‘diversity within diversity’ or ‘intersectionality’, that is, the representation of groups that have two or more of potentially under- represented characteristics. There is also a need for more monitoring of information to be able to evaluate better the impact of leadership diversity promotion activities.

The region has an exciting opportunity to grow rapidly economically but will be held back if we do not tackle the under representation in leadership roles from people of all backgrounds. It is vital that if we want to develop
an inclusive region, where people are respected and feel a part of society we need to look at the importance of diverse leadership with a determination to put into place actions which not only embrace it as a concept but adopt it in all of our societal and political decisions; this needs to happen in our streets and neighbourhoods as well as in our public and private institutions.

I want to thank the Commissioners who have spent the last nine months in not only guiding the work but being out and about listening to people.

We the Commissioners feel that this is the beginning of
a long overdue journey. The work for our current leaders in the private and public sectors begins now.

As a Commission we could not have undertaken this important work without the support of our Universities in the region. This work was led by a dedicated team from the University of Birmingham under the stewardship of Jenny Phillimore, Kiram Trehan, Jane Glover and Yanan Zhang.

Anita Bhalla OBE
Chair, WMCA Leadership Commission


The Leadership Commission was established to identify the fundamental issues within our region that prevent our high-level positions being reflective of the communities we live in.

As the WMCA portfolio lead for Cohesion, Inclusion and Public Service Reform the work of the Leadership Commission is pivotal to delivering on my agenda for reform and for instigating positive change across the region.

The diversity of the West Midlands is one of our biggest strengths, we have a young and incredibly diverse population for which we need to ensure there are opportunities to grow and flourish. We want change to be sustainable and not just about meeting ‘quotas’ to deliver diversity.

We know that people from under-represented groups are not taking advantage of the opportunities we want the region to provide for them. There are barriers to progress in life and work which are felt disproportionately by certain communities, groups and individuals. This is not a new issue, but it is a critical one. We will not close the productivity gap articulated in our Strategic Economic Plan without inclusive leadership and inclusive growth that enables more of our citizens to play a full part.

Inclusive growth means using diversity as an asset – but what the Leadership Commission makes clear
is that we will need a step change in practice to get there. Inclusive Growth can only become sustainable through the evolution of a more inclusive leadership culture and practice across the region.

The work of the Commission over last 9 months has been supported by academic teams who have produced some fantastic data on which to develop our understanding of the barriers preventing a more diverse leadership across our region. But we have sought

to go beyond this and to look at some of the real stories behind the headlines so that our path forwards creates sustainable solutions that will deliver the long-term change needed to deliver inclusive leadership.

I am incredibly proud of the work that has been achieved through this commission. The challenge is now is to act on the recommendations in collaboration across our region.

Councillor Steve Eling
Leader of Sandwell Council, WMCA portfolio holder for Cohesion and Integration


In my time as Managing Director of John Lewis, Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, and candidate for the Mayoralty I was constantly struck that meetings of regional leaders involved many people who looked like me – white, male, middle aged! All were admirable individuals in their own right, but as a group we did not reflect the rich diversity of our vibrant region. On becoming Mayor I was determined to try to do something about that as it can’t be right that the half who are women, third who are from BAME backgrounds and the 20% who have some form of disability are underrepresented in our leadership. The Leadership Commission under the chairmanship of Anita Bhalla OBE was therefore born.

I am extremely grateful that the WMCA, local councils, businesses and our regional institutions have come together to provide data, ideas and support for changing the makeup of the leadership of our region. That’s been combined with real life experience from the many focus groups led by our commissioners and strong academic input from the Universities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Birmingham City, Warwick and Coventry. IRiS (Institute for Research into Superdiversity) at the University of Birmingham have been the main drivers of this report and I am grateful for the dedication in producing this report.

I am pleased that the outcome is honest and challenging to us. The recommendations call for better talent pipelines for people of all backgrounds whether their diversity is evident or not.

The Commission calls on all of us in leadership positions to think what difference our own actions can make, to ensure we release the potential of our fellow citizens and ensure the West Midlands becomes a place where everyone can fulfil their potential. I look forward to using the Mayoralty to help make this happen.

Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA