In October, Northumbria and Durham universities updated their 2000 report ‘Who Runs the North East Now? Governance and Governing in an English Region’. It looks at the way that the public sector is lead throughout the region and, at times, makes grim reading.
It seems that little has changed since the turn of the millennium, with the majority of the top jobs still held by white, middle class men in the autumns of their careers. Diversity still remains an issue. The one bright spot is the political arena where the percentage of women MPs and councillors is well above the national average at 48% and 43% respectively. Only 17% of the leaders are women however.
This highlights an important point for me. The report suggests, unintentionally I expect, that it is only those at the top of organizations that run them when this is blatantly not true. Leadership exists throughout the structure of the public sector. As in the political arena the number of women in leadership roles is increasing. Female Heads of Service and Directors make up a significant portion of the cohort and female Chief Executives, whilst not the norm are certainly not uncommon.
The recent appointment of Daljit Lally as Northumberland County Council’s Chief Executive is a case in point.
While diversity still remains an enormous issue it is the direction of travel that we should consider rather than just the headline numbers. It takes time and effort to get to the ‘top’ of an organization, as well as a considerable amount of desire, and considering the fifty or so most senior positions from organizations that employ tens of thousands of people does not, necessarily, reflect reality.
There is still an enormous way to go until we can stop talking about diversity but to say that little has changed is counter-productive. The world of work is changing in the North East and these things take time and a considerable amount of desire.
The report can be found here.