Chris' article in the Guardian about gender equality in public appointments

By 2022, half of the UK's public appointments should be women

The race disparity audit published in October revealed uncomfortable truths about the ethnic disparities in our country. The prime minister has rightly tasked all of us in government to tackle these disparities and take action to improve opportunities for people from all backgrounds. To that end, I am setting an ambition that by 2022 half of all public appointees will be women and 14% from ethnic minority backgrounds. The organisations that run, regulate and support our public services need diversity of thought, background and experience in order to be successful. We need public appointees as diverse as the range of positions on offer, from being on the board of the National Portrait Gallery to advising the National DNA Database Ethics Group (pdf) or being a board member of the Charity Commission. 

So you can The public appointees I speak to tell me how rewarding their work is and how they value the opportunity to make a contribution to society. Often, they’ll have full-time jobs or businesses to run but their specialist knowledge and incisive oversight are vital in helping us deliver quality services at value for money to the public. Considerable progress has already been made in increasing gender diversity among new public appointees. In 2016/17, the proportion of women being newly appointed to the boards of public bodies rose to 49%, from 34% in 2013/14. However, at present, only 43% of the 5,000 appointments on public bodies are women and we recognise there is more we can do to attract experts from every sector to help make our public institutions better. To achieve gender balance on public boards, improve ethnic minority representation, and bring more people from different backgrounds, life experiences and faiths into public appointments, we have launched a diversity action plan.

The 10-point plan sets out how the government will deliver this ambition, including establishing a network of ministerial diversity champions, improving data and reporting on the diversity of those appointed to public bodies. We know that the main barriers for people from underrepresented groups who are thinking of applying are a lack of knowledge about what public appointments are and a sense that people like them are not successful when they do apply.

As part of the plan we will introduce a mentoring programme where new and aspiring public appointees can connect with people already in post. We know we need to work much harder to bring people with disabilities into public life so, as part of the plan, I will commission a review of the barriers to those with disabilities taking up appointments, to report next year. Much like the Women in Finance Charter established by the Treasury in July 2016, we are setting up an Inclusive Boards Charter that will set standards for inclusivity for chairs and their boards.

The public appointees I speak to tell me how rewarding their work is and how they value the opportunity to make a contribution to society. Often, they’ll have full-time jobs or businesses to run but their specialist knowledge and incisive oversight are vital in helping us deliver quality services at value for money to the public.

With this diversity action plan the government is taking action to help make our democracy more representative.