Plans for more diversity in top West Midlands roles

Two new schemes are being launched to encourage more diversity at board level in the West Midlands.

One scheme will offer people from underrepresented backgrounds a chance to learn the skills needed to successfully secure a position on a board or committee of an organisation; the other will support local professional services firms to develop more diverse talent for their business.

The projects aim is to equip more people from underrepresented groups to apply for board-level opportunities and, at the same time, encourage boards and recruiters to consider these applicants more seriously by demonstrating the value that these candidates could add.

Plans for more diversity in top West Midlands roles

Screenshot of a virtual roundtable held on 18 March at which the schemes were announced

The two projects are being run by the West Midlands Leadership Commission, which was set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in 2017, to help people from under-represented parts of society make it to the top of the career ladder. Back in September the WMCA Board endorsed a renewal of the Commission’s activity following the influence of Black Lives Matter and the unequal impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on some communities.

This new phase of the Leadership Commission activity is being co-chaired by Anita Bhalla OBE and Professor Kiran Trehan. Anita who was awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to broadcasting and communities said: “The Leadership Commission worked for 18 months to interrogate the makeup of leadership in the West Midlands and evidence the barriers underrepresented groups, such as women and ethnic minority communities, face to reaching top positions.”

“Our findings report ‘Leaders Like You’ set out the data and recommendations for the whole region, some of which have been taken forward. However, there are still huge inequalities to tackle and our next task as the Commission will be to take action that really focuses on getting more people onto boards.”

The training scheme, called Get Board Ready opens to applicants Friday 19 March. It will focus on the skills, knowledge and experience needed to apply for public appointments, and provide the successful cohort with training on how to apply and be interviewed for board level positions. A workshop will give them the potential to be appointees with extra know-how and practical experience needed to clinch a position. The project aims to help achieve the Government’s aim that by 2022, 50% of public appointees should be women and 14% should be from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Meanwhile Professor Kiran Trehan, pro-vice chancellor at York University and director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Enterprise, Leadership and Diversity is working with businesses in the professional services sector to help make the leadership of their firms more inclusive and build pipelines to develop diverse talent within their organisations. The professional services are being targeted as they are a key sector for the region and the WMCA is participating alongside these firms.

The Leadership Commission was established by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and the WMCA Board in 2017 to investigate why the diverse makeup of the region’s population is not reflected at leadership levels.

The Mayor said: “The West Midlands has a really diverse population, but we’re finding that this diversity isn’t being displayed at leadership level. This is a problem for boards and businesses, who are not connecting to talent that could help them to thrive, as well as for our communities, who are missing that representation and seat at the table.

“So the Leadership Commission is setting out to help rectify this situation by opening up routes to these top positions, and I am pleased we have been able to launch these two new schemes to help achieve that.”

Councillor Brigid Jones, who is the WMCA portfolio lead member for inclusive communities and deputy leader at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is vital that the diversity of our communities is represented in leadership roles. People need to have leaders who look like them and speak up about the things that matter most to them, and our region’s young population needs to know that these aren’t roles that are shut off to them; they are roles for them.”

“These schemes have been devised by the Leadership Commission to open up opportunities and develop aspirations of all people across the West Midlands.”

Applications for the workshop in applying for public appointments will open on 19 March and close late April, with the workshop taking place in early June. There are further details on the WMCA website

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