The National Infrastructure Commission has set out a roadmap for ensuring its own staff team reflects the diversity of the UK, alongside making inclusion a key factor in analysing future policy questions to help infrastructure better serve the needs of all users.
The Commission’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2020-23 outlines plans to attract and retain staff from a range of backgrounds, and to create an organisational culture which embeds inclusion at every level.
As part of its future work programme, the Commission will assess the role of diversity and inclusion in infrastructure project governance structures and consider how they impact decision making, alongside the effectiveness of existing evaluation mechanisms.
The document also sets out a mission to help convene discussions and share good practice across the sectors with which the Commission works.
The overall aim, the strategy states, is to accelerate longstanding efforts to ensure the UK’s infrastructure is fully accessible to as many people as reasonably possible, not least by supporting the contribution of as diverse a range of people as possible to the planning and delivery of those services.
Currently, women make up 23.3 per cent of employees in the water and energy sectors, while those sectors have 7.1 per cent Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees. Latest figures suggest that 12.9 per cent of the economically active UK workforce identify with ethnicities categorised as BAME.
The document sets out plans to work with HM Treasury to address the diversity of the Commission itself, ensuring it contributes to government-wide diversity targets for public appointments.
The limited size of the Commission’s secretariat means individual staff moves can make a disproportionate difference to overall statistics and makes reporting of demographic breakdowns challenging. However, the Commission’s strategy aims to ensure that its staff are more representative of the general population, with a particular focus on recruiting and retaining women, Black and ethnic minority staff, and those with disabilities given that these groups have been under-represented since the organisation was established five years ago.
Julia Prescot, lead Commissioner for Diversity and Inclusion, said:
“While we have been formulating this strategy for some time, recent events both nationally and internationally have again highlighted the need for a step change in efforts to address historic disparities between different groups of people. Infrastructure should serve all communities fairly, seeking to boost the quality of life for everyone. We want to play our part in achieving that change.”
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt added:
“While a small organisation in terms of staff numbers, the Commission is determined to play our part in making the world of infrastructure more diverse and more accessible. We will need to work closely with others to make a difference, but I know that sector leaders are keen to leave a legacy of national infrastructure which better reflects the needs and aspirations of all who use it.”