Bernadette Thompson

Bernadette Thompson

Focusing on the ethnicity/gender intersect to creating a more gender inclusive agenda

Whilst the Civil Service has the most women in senior positions than it has ever had, when intersected with ethnicity, there is still a long way to go. 

Last year during the 2018, 100 years suffrage celebrations, Bernadette noticed that the representation of BAME women at prominent events, conferences and panels mainly lacked the presence of BAME women in the audiences and on the panels. The first few 100 years, 100 women blogs, published to celebrate women was represented by the ratio 1 to 10 (1 being the BAME woman). Bernie realised that the Civil Service gender agenda was mainly represented by the voices and presence of white women, therefore, she decided to help the Civil Service gender agenda become more inclusive.

In the first instant she consulted with BAME women across government, to obtain their feelings around the gender equality agenda. Some of her key findings were as follows:

•Women’s networks were not ethnically diverse, even among the chairs and executive members
•Opportunities promoted to them was always around ethnicity and not gender
•Conferences like the Dods Women into leadership – BAME women were often asked why they wanted to attend, however, the BAME into leadership conference did not attract such questions
•Many BAME women were not aware of the 100 women’s blog, 
•Lack of visible BAME female role models across the Civil Service

With this information, Bernadette decided to tackle some of these issues. She devised four key actions to tackle some of these challenges:

•Increase the number of BAME women submissions to the 100 years blog
•Start a “women in leadership series” targeted for BAME women 
•Seek for external organisations leading on intersectionality
•Raise these issues with female CS Senior leaders and women’s network leads.

Over the last past 18 months, Bernadette has worked on these actions, resulting in the following impact:

  • Targeted BAME women through her cross-government network, resulting in an increase in number of BAME women featured in the 100-women blog series
  • Started a prominent Women in Leadership series bringing BAME women together with women in very Senior Civil Service roles and other sectors.
  • She has organised approx. 10 of such events which impacted over 370 BAME women across the Civil Service (CS) departments. 
  • Speakers at these events include female Permanent Secretaries, DGs, former KMPG partner, BITC Race Director and other female role models. Feedback from these events have been 100% positive. 
  • This unique series is now well-established; therefore, she is exploring a similar forum for BAME men, having organised the first ever cross-government event for BAME men celebrating International Men’s Day in 2018. Approximately 90 BAME men attended this inspiring event with a BAME SCS male role models panel sharing impactful leadership journeys. There has been a unanimous call for a repeat in 2019. 
  • Bernadette actively looked for external organizations also driving this agenda, she reached out to Carol Campayne, a diversity practitioner who is supported by some organizations to carry out a research on the ethnicity gender intersect called Different Women Different Places (DWDP). Bernadette negotiated a free facilitated session with Carol to explore who BAME women viewed the Civil Service Gender agenda, she invited Melanie Dawes (previous CS gender champion), Cabinet Office Gender Policy Lead and a CS women’s network lead to attend the session, so they could hear firsthand, the lived experiences BAME women in the Civil Service.
  • The CS will now join other organizations later this year to discuss the findings of this research and develop initiatives to ensure the UK gender agenda is fully inclusive.