CIPFA research examining diversity and inclusion issues in public sector

9 Jul 19

Addressing inequality across the public and private sectors is essential to restoring trust in public services, delegates at CIPFA’s annual conference – Public Finance Live 2019 – were told.

CIPFA is currently working with the Bridge Group to conduct a research programme around diversity and inclusion in the public sector, “considering the protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act as well as socio-economic indicators”. 

Setting out the early findings of that ongoing research, Nicholas Miller, chief executive of Bridge Group, said: “Over the course of many years, we have seen a decline in trust across public services, the media and politics. The public feels the elite runs society and if we want to restore the trust people have in public services, we have to ensure it feels more equal to them.”

Miller added that CIPFA’s research has so far identified a 6.4% gender pay gap in the public sector, which he said was lower than the national average “but not something we should accept or rest on”.

He also told delegates that while diversity and inclusion is about “people issues such as gender, race, age, sexuality and socio-economic inequality”, the role of data in helping address these issues cannot be underestimated.

“A strategic approach, built on reliable data, is essential,” he said. “We are rooted in practical action. The collection, monitoring and analysis of data is essential to unlocking people’s thinking. Then we must focus on what we do with that because there has been a lot narrative about what good diversity and inclusion is, but little proof of what actually works.”

Also speaking at the event, Hardev Virdee, chief financial officer, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust said his work to improve diversity and inclusion within the NHS had also highlighted how essential data and targets are to achieving success.

“Being accountants, we of course wanted to set some targets,” he said. “We set a target of a 10% year-on-year improvement around gender and ethnicity and people said that was too ambitious. But in some cases that might only mean employing one more woman to a finance function, and that tells a story in itself.”

Speaking immediately after the update on CIPFA’s diversity and inclusion research, CIPFA President Carolyn Williamson announced that CIPFA would in the Autumn launch a new diversity and inclusion strategy focused on finance professionals in the public sector, which will be informed by the ongoing research.

“The gender pay gap and the under representation of BAME groups in our profession is very real, and the first step to reaching a solution is recognising the problem. Only by reflecting the communities we represent, can we make the most informed financial decisions,” she said.

“I want to see all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds being encouraged into the top finance jobs across the public sector, and our new diversity and inclusion strategy will be a big step forward in achieving this goal.” 

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