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.

5. Panel Session

5.1 Introduction

5.1.1 Following the breakout session, each breakout group posed a question to the panel, which comprised the following six panellists:

  • Ima Jackson, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Talat Yaqoob, Equalities Consultant
  • Padam Singh, BME Employability Strategic Steering Group
  • Murid Laly, Intercultural Youth Scotland
  • John Wilkes, Head of Scotland, Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Helen Martin, Head of the Secretariat to the Fair Work Convention

5.1.2 Below is a bulleted summary of panellists’ responses to the questions identified from the breakout groups, as well as those unanswered on the day due to time constraints:

What is going to make a difference this time since many of us have been here before?

  • The need for bold, radical actions; to have clear, specific and public-facing goals to ensure accountability.
  • A comprehensive and clear understanding of institutional racism and how it may manifest in organisations.
  • The need to break down organisations’ anti-racism strategies into smaller, meaningful steps.
  • This agenda needs to be driven by leadership and its commitment to identifying root causes of inequality within their organisations and taking remedial action and ensuring positive outcomes.
  • The need for accountability, and for it to be enforced. It was noted that there existed very little challenge to organisations that did not meet their equality targets.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) would be reviewing the published set of Equality Outcomes (EO) for organisations and encouraged organisations to set employment-related EOs to drive this work forward. The Commission indicated organisations did not need to be nervous or reluctant to focus on one particular EO such as race, provided there was sufficient data or evidence to prove it needed addressed.
  • Panellists referred to the need to shift the focus to racism, not race equality and the need to discuss racism as the issue that created the inequality.
  • The need to reconsider racism as a systemic issue, rather than being an individual act.

What dramatic and serious actions do we take right now to deliver tangible and measurable outcomes?

  • Investment in resources to better understand the psychological effects of racial trauma and its role in alienating minority ethnic communities.
  • Greater understanding among recruitment panellists of minority ethnic applicants and the skills and assets they bring to organisations.
  • Flexibility with job criteria to prevent disadvantaging minority ethic applicants who do not meet traditional criteria, including minimum qualification requirements.

When you do not have lived experience of being black or minority ethnic yourself, how do you move forward this agenda for your organisation?

  • Acknowledging the reality that the significant majority of those in positions of power within organisations are white.
  • Not only finding access to lived experience expertise, but recognising its value and putting it on an equal footing in senior level decision-making. In so doing it ensures a balancing and redistribution of power. Organisations need to rethink decision making that creates and sustains systemic inequalities.
  • The vital importance of gathering and using data to understand where issues lie. Particular emphasis was made within the context of the Health Sector and the need for better data to respond to the needs of minority ethnic communities.
  • Using models of incorporating lived experience such as mutual mentoring. In addition, recognising that what is also needed is intellectual expertise on how to deal with racism and inequality, not just the lived experience of minority ethnic staff.

How are you going to hold us to account for changes made in a way which enables us to know when we have been successful?

  • Reference was made of the Fair Work Convention’s voluntary model, developed in collaboration with employers and unions. Issues and solutions are identified through social dialogue. It is important to seek and explore the workforce voice, bringing in outside expertise as needed. Adopting a collaborative model, as opposed to that which is prescriptive, ensures everyone takes ownership and encourages a positive mind-set about advancing race equality.
  • The EHRC reviews the Equality Outcomes of organisations and advises making and setting really clear Equality Outcomes, with a firm indication of the issue and specific, measurable outcomes.
  • Data; a significant issue is the lack of data. Data can: show issues within an organisation. including for instance occupational segregation or poor retention; help set targets to address these issues; and allow organisations to monitor and show their progress.
  • Managers need to set clear targets for themselves and staff.

How do we build trust between ourselves and minority ethnic staff?

  • There needs to be transparency and a ‘leap of faith’; to trust and have confidence in staff members and their skills.
  • Implement practices that do not alienate minority ethnic staff, particularly in the recruitment process.
  • Ensure organisations are open and transparent with the public on the issues they face on race equality and how they are taking remedial action.

How can we introduce reverse mentoring in a way that does not overload the small representation of colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds always having to be the ones to participate and challenge?

  • Engage with those colleagues first to ask them how they would best want to be involved, and what support they would need
  • Ensure that this is something that is done strategically within an organisation.
  • If there is a lack of representation of ethnic minority colleagues in the workforce then consideration should be given to an equality outcome to address this in the next round of outcomes under the public sector duties
  • Ensure that reverse mentoring does not become exploitative. Other options include working with race equality stakeholders that are already doing the work ‘participating and challenging’ and who know how to engage employees who experience racism in a way that doesn’t over-burden them or exploit their experience.
  • There should be a safe, anonymous and free system for complaints, reports, and suggestions such that minority ethnic employees can reflect their experience (if they so desire) to colleagues safely.

How can leaders overcome the fear that addressing institutional racism will somehow label their organisation as 'racist'?

  • Ensure that all aspects of your organisation to remove institutional and systemic barriers in your policies and services, so that they are accessible to all parts of the community and for all people with protected characteristics, is good practice and part of a continuous improvement process that all organisations should be engaged in. This is what the public sector duties are designed to help public bodies achieve.
  • Leaders need to reflect on why they hold such fears, and more importantly they need to reflect on the fears of those who experience racism and suffer from institutional racisms. The latter is a far greater concern and one which should guide their response.

What more could Scottish Government do to let public bodies know what 'good' looks like, to embed anti-racism in their day-to-day work?

  • Scottish Government is not exempt from the practices that enable and embed institutional racism. We recognise that we ourselves have much to learn in order to show to others what ‘good’ looks like.
  • We all must understand that ‘good’ is not a static image and will vary across organisations. There needs to be collaboration with race equality stakeholders to develop best practice unique to our organisations.
  • It is not only the Government that has a role in this, all public bodies should be working on looking at what ‘good’ look likes.
  • Scottish Government can help set a lead by pointing to issues that different sectors of the public sector might want to focus on. There are also examples of learning that have been developed in response to work that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has undertaken.
  • The Commission’s inquiry into the issue of racial harassment in universities for both staff and students “Tackling racial harassment: Universities challenged” has led to some proactive commitment and work to address the issues raised by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Advance Higher Education.
  • SFC and the Commission have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to develop this work. The Commission’s own work on the effectiveness of the public sector duties in Scotland, their “Measuring Up” programme, has also highlighted some good practice examples where these were available.



Back to top