Public Sector Leadership Summit on Race Equality in Employment: report

This report summarises the outcomes of the Public Sector Leadership Summit on Race Equality in Employment that was held by the Scottish Government in March 2021.

3. Reflections from Madhu Malhotra, Director for Equalities, Inclusion and Human Rights at the Scottish Government

3.1 Introduction

3.1.1 Ms Malhotra reflected on becoming the inaugural Director of the Scottish Government’s new Directorate for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights and that it brought both a feeling of great pride but also determination to challenge systemic societal issues.

3.1.2 She made clear from the outset that the challenges faced when tackling barriers, creating more inclusive workplaces and acknowledging and acting upon the institutional racism within systems, was not for one person, nor for only the Government, nor for only HR leads, but a Scotland wide endeavour to challenge, question and hold oneself to account for one’s everyday actions.

3.2 Race Equality Action Plan

3.2.1 Ms Malhotra reflected on the Scottish Government’s Race Equality Action Plan that was published in March and, whilst she noted the strides that had made, she acknowledged that more needed to done. The summit, she said, represented “a good starting point” as Scottish Government planned its future equality work.

3.2.2 She went on to reference the key drivers of this work, including:

  • data and evidence - showing the disproportionate impact of COVID and wider evidence of systemic, structural inequalities and race;
  • lived experience - ensuring the approach is informed by those it is working for;
  • acting on the centrality of active participation, empowerment and the voices of minority ethnic communities, and taking an intersectional perspective;
  • setting out measureable outcomes that explicitly linked with the Race Equality Network and anchored in the National Performance Framework, and could be tracked and measured; and
  • robust governance and oversight arrangements, with a stronger accountability structure.

3.3 Challenge

3.3.1 Ms Malhotra spoke of the existing challenges that needed to be addressed to drive forward race equality. This included ensuring that actions were not piecemeal, nor taken in isolation, but were rooted in everyday practice. She stressed the need to see action plans, strategies and proposals that were co-created, rooted and embodied in a trauma informed way; intersectional, and most importantly disruptive.

3.3.2 However, to do that, she said, we needed to understand context, our systems and how they perpetuated deep rooted racism; a form that wasn’t so blatant as it was ingrained. She noted practical steps that she had taken to understand systems and contexts in her own life and work, including mutual and reverse mentoring, creating a network of critical allies, and a support system around her to strengthen her programme for change.

3.3.3 She noted it was critical for leaders to use their power to influence and act as a driver to shape the culture that they would be rightly judged upon.

3.4 Conclusion

3.4.1 Ms Malhotra made clear that what lay ahead was nothing short of momentous, but with that allowed the public sector to wipe the slate clean and pause and reflect on what needed done, which was not simply about meeting legal obligations but shattering the long standing hurdles minority ethnic people have faced.

3.4.2 She concluded by urging leaders to continue the work, drive and ambition but to also realise that change, whilst uncomfortable at times, was empowering for everyone; allowing leaders to push their boundaries. Her ask of delegates was to:

“feel uncomfortable, be challenged and embrace it. Because only then, we will see real change and then we can be proud of what we have contributed to making Scotland an even fairer place.”



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