Some of the region's biggest employers came together today to pledge their support to tackle the lack of diversity at the very top of major companies and public bodies.
Representatives from more than 60 businesses and organisations gathered in Birmingham for the launch of the Inclusive Leadership Pledge – an initiative aimed at rebalancing boardrooms.
The Pledge is the result of a hard hitting report – Leaders Like You – published last summer by the independent West Midlands Leadership Commission, which focused on the experiences of black and ethnic minority communities, women, the LGBT community, disabled people and lower social economic groups such as white, working class boys.
Anita Bhalla OBE addresses attendees at the launch of the Inclusive Leadership Pledge
Set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Commission warned that the lack of diversity at leadership level risked damaging the region's economy and wider society.
The report set out a number of recommendations, including a call for existing leaders to ensure diversity in their workplaces, identify talent and then mentor and coach that talent to produce future leaders.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who also chairs the WMCA, officially launched the Inclusive Leadership Pledge at the Wesleyan offices in Birmingham. Businesses including Blue Skies, DLA Piper and the Wesleyan made pledges, alongside the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust.
The WMCA is now aiming to get 1,000 businesses and organisations to sign up to the Pledge over the coming 12 months.
The authority has also pledged to strive for 40% of its senior management to be women within the next five years.
The Mayor said: "Diversity is one of the key strengths of the West Midlands – but many boardrooms are missing out on fresh talent and alternative ways of looking at an increasingly globalised world.
"It’s not acceptable that sections of our society are not getting chance to help shape and influence at a leadership level: whether that’s because of existing business policies, or long-standing issues with self-confidence and self-worth among these communities.
"The Inclusive Leadership Pledge is a commitment from some of our biggest employers and organisations that they will actively seek to improve diversity in their leadership – whether by reviewing recruitment, improving staff support or sharing their own best practice with others.
"We want 1,000 local businesses and organisations to sign up to the Pledge by the end of 2019 – and I'm pleased to say that the WMCA has pledged its commitment today."
Following the publication of last year's Leaders Like You report, businesses have clubbed together to discuss ways to make positive changes to their recruitment procedures, staffing policies and employee engagement – and have made three key suggestions to help diversify their organisations.
The three suggestions were to set up peer-to-peer mentoring, create a website with best-practice resources for businesses and create a pledge commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
The Inclusive Leadership Pledge itself states: "We pledge to embed inclusivity in our organisation’s ethos and culture, so that every employee has a fair opportunity in recruitment, promotion and progression. We pledge that under-represented groups will be actively supported so that we can collectively make a difference to the leadership of the West Midlands."
The statement is supported by a number of pledges to take action – such as:
Anita Bhalla OBE, journalist and chair of the Leadership Commission, said: "The Inclusive Leadership Pledge is the start of an overdue journey. Businesses have digested our report, considered the issues, taken a look at themselves, and come up with a number of suggestions which they feel will have a long-lasting and positive impact. This has to be applauded.
"Businesses are understanding that under-representation at leadership level limits aspiration and leads to disaffection. They are signing up to create an environment where future leaders from all backgrounds can be nurtured, acknowledging this ultimately will be good not just for their business, but for society."
Roger Dix, chief risk officer and executive sponsor for inclusion and diversity at Wesleyan: "Wesleyan is delighted to host the launch of the Inclusive Leadership Pledge for the West Midlands.
"As a leading employer in the region, we are committed to inclusivity and diversity, and recognise the value in having different viewpoints in senior positions.
"We are pleased to sign up to the Inclusive Leadership Pledge and hope hundreds of other businesses and organisations will do the same. Working together, we can help make a huge difference to the leadership of the region."
Businesses and organisations can get more information and sign the Inclusive Leadership Pledge online at: www.wmca.org.uk/inclusive-leadership-pledge