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Leaders Like You


The diversity and young age profile of the
people who live in the West Midlands has been recognised for a long time as a fantastic asset
in the region. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and its partner organisations, recognising that diversity is an economic and social asset, have proudly sought to build on this asset to attract investment and visitors and to promote inclusive growth, that is growth that provides benefits for all who live in the area.

However, the WMCA and its partners recognise that more needs to be done as there is a significant leadership gap amongst private and public sector organisations based in the area it covers. The number of women, people with disabilities and Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) people is lower than would be expected given their numbers in the area’s population. For example, BAME people make up 12.4 per cent of the UK working population but only 5 per cent of senior managers. This is true for some other groups within the local population.

The WMCA brings together representatives from the local authorities of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton and is led by a directly elected Mayor.

This gap exists because certain communities, groups of people and individuals face higher barriers to progress in life and work than others. This in turn can discourage those facing these higher barriers from aspiring and striving for leadership positions resulting in feelings of exclusion and marginalisation.

Does it matter?

Clearly for the individuals affected it does. But the leadership gap also has a profound negative impact on the prosperity of the West Midlands conurbation and wider region and therefore on the population as a whole. New research makes it increasingly clear that organisations with diverse workforces perform better.

Companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to have higher financial returns than their industry average.This is because a diverse board or governing body tends to have a better understanding of:

  • Its customer base/the people it serves,
    a particularly important factor in the West Midlands given the diversity of its population and the export-orientation of its industry;
  • The environment in which its organisation operates;
  • The range of opportunities and obstacles it faces.

Organisations with a more diverse board or governing body also tend to attract top talent, have greater employee satisfaction and are better at problem solving, decision making and innovation.

Reflecting diversity better in leadership also matters for other region-wide reasons:

  • Given regional population trends, promoting diversity grows the pool from which leaders of the future can emerge. Relying on a shrinking number of white, male and able- bodied men will not be enough.
  • More negatively, if certain groups feel that they are being excluded from leadership positions, then this can only increase the risks of discouraging those within the leadership pipeline to aspire to senior leadership positions. More generally, it will increase the risk of disaffection and social conflict.

In short, there is now an economic and business imperative for greater leadership diversity and inclusivity in addition to the frequently cited social imperative of greater equality.