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Call to action urges white public sector leaders to challenge racism

An urgent call to action to support white leaders across the public sector to become and stay an inclusive, culturally competent leader in a fairer workplace has been published by the professional development arm of the Association of Directors Children’s Services.

The Staff College report provides insights and learning on understanding and combating inequality, recognises the context of Black Lives Matter and highlights what is known so far about the impact of COVID-19 on existing inequalities experienced by Black people.

“It constructively challenges you to consider and act on all forms of racism in your workplace and across the communities you support and serve,” said the report.

While there is currently heightened focus on racism in society and a recognition of the need to tackle deep-rooted and longstanding inequalities as a result of the Black Lives Matter response to George Floyd’s murder, the report warns that there is a track record of many ‘moments’ not being seized.

COVID-19 has also intensified social and health inequalities, with different sets of challenges for those from diverse cultures.

The report urges white leaders to:

  • Tell the truth – share what you know and what you don’t
  • Ask for help – leadership is about releasing and mobilising the forces that bring people together as a team
  • Benefit from mutual or inclusive mentoring
  • Go outside your comfort zone
  • Lead by example
  • Continuing Professional Development - critically consider the training that all leaders in your organisation receive, irrespective of their background, their professional socialisation, the institutional culture of which they become a part, the systems and processes they operate
  • Inclusive language - recognise that different groups will identify themselves differently.

“Leadership for racial equality and inclusion has to be upfront and personal. It is about embracing truth and justice, as well as being honest about what you don’t know. It demands courage, humility, constant learning and an understanding of workplace and community realities,” said the report.

“Black staff and communities have waited many times for these changes to happen and endure. Many of your staff do not believe change will come in their lifetime and they are tired of lip service or nominal change that soon fades away. What actions and risks are you prepared to take personally to create and sustain fairer workplaces and contribute to fairer communities?” the report concludes.

An analysis of children’s services directors published in May showed that 80% identify as white British, 5% as white Irish, 8% as ‘other’ white, 1% as other; 1% as black African, 1% as black Caribbean, 3% as white and Asian. One DCS preferred not to state their ethnicity.

ADCS President Charlotte Ramsden said: “This report highlights a lot of valuable and important learning into what we, as leaders, can do better to create and sustain a culture of inclusivity and to challenge ourselves and those around us. It highlights clearly the urgency and importance of acting now. Diversity in leadership matters but to improve this we need to attract, and crucially retain, more staff from ethnically diverse backgrounds. It is also important for children and young people to see that they too can aspire to a career in children’s services by seeing themselves reflected in the professionals who have such an important impact on their lives. We must therefore do all we can to not only encourage diversity within our workforce but also to create a culture that allows everyone to reach their full potential.

“Local authorities are working hard to recruit a workforce that represents the communities we work with and to support all staff, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or any disability, to progress to senior and leadership roles if they wish to. However, clearly there is more that we can do, and this remains a priority for the Association.”

Leading in Colour: The fierce urgency of now

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