IRiS leads research for WMCA Leadership Commission Report

The University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) has made a significant contribution to the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Leadership Commission Report 2018, launched by Andy Street CBE, the Mayor of the West Midlands, and presented at a city centre event on Thursday 14th June.

The Commission’s report – Leaders Like You – focuses 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.

The IRiS research demonstrates that the proportion of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the West Midlands workforce is significantly lower than the local working age population. Access to work is hindered by a lack of positive role models, an understanding of cultural differences and a backdrop of institutional and societal prejudice. Disabled people and sexual minorities were also under-represented, with women faring poorly in the police and fire service.

The report, commended by Prime Minister, Teresa May, identifies new and compelling evidence and makes a number of recommendations to address the leadership diversity gap. IRiS Director and Professor of Migration and Superdiversity, Jenny Phillimore, and Kiran Trehan, IRiS member and Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, with contributions from Dr Jane Glover and Yanan Zhang, led on the collection of evidence and the write up of the report. This work was done in conjunction with the Universities of Warwick, Wolverhampton and Coventry and Birmingham City University.

To mark the launch of the report, the University hosted an event on Thursday 14th June to share innovative practices amongst academics, policy makers, professionals and entrepreneurs and look at transforming leadership practice to ensure that the diversity of local leaders better reflects the diversity of people across the West Midlands. The event also gave young people an opportunity to speak out about the future of inclusive leadership through panel-focused sessions.

The event also marked the launch of a new collaborative research project between the University of Birmingham, Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and the WMCA.

Jenny Phillimore, said: “Our report shows that, to some extent, the workforce of the West Midlands reflects the population, but much more work is needed to increase diversity in leadership. We hope that our recommendations will provide a catalyst for change”

On the research, Kiran Trehan commented: “The exciting part of leading this new agenda on leadership is the commitment from a range of sectors and businesses to work across institutional boundaries to create an inclusive culture as well as behavioural change. We’ll be doing this through diverse peer learning which will carry across public/private/third sector, social enterprises and education, making responsible leadership everyone’s business.”

The West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street CBE, launched the report and shared his belief that more needs to be done to bring greater diversity in leadership throughout the combined authority: “The diversity of our region is one of our greatest assets but this lack of representation at leadership level in organisations can lead to a sense of alienation amongst certain groups and a feeling that it is not possible to get to the top.

Greater diversity in leadership can bring fresh talent and alternative ways of looking at an increasingly globalised world and that can generate greater prosperity and less marginalisation and disaffection amongst excluded groups.”

In addition to mentoring and coaching talent from within, the report also recommends:

  • The WMCA leads by example and act on an ambitious plan to bring more diverse leaders into its own organisation, networks and governance
  • The public and private sector work together to support organisations struggling to diversify their leadership and workforce by helping them put in place proven HR policies
  • The development of more peer-to-peer learning networks where leaders from different organisations can learn from each other
  • Raising levels of aspiration for young people in marginalised communities by creating a Youth Combined Authority to build future political leadership capability
  • Working closely with schools to encourage young people from underrepresented groups to aspire to leadership positions
  • Closer collaboration with universities to create a leadership programme for young and emerging leaders from the faith communities and the Young Changemakers Academy

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