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Industry / Market - UK

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The BBC publishes its 2021-2023 Diversity & Inclusion Plan


The new report initiates an ambitious ten-point plan by the UK public broadcaster to continue its progress in this realm

The BBC publishes its 2021-2023 Diversity & Inclusion Plan

One amongst many major media organisations strongly rethinking its approach to diversity, the BBC has officially published its new Diversity & Inclusion Plan 2021-2023 (read it in full here), a detailed 41-page document putting on record all the progress it hopes to achieve in the next few years. Split between an assessment of its previous strategy, lasting from 2016-2020, and looking ahead to its upcoming three-year plan, the report is not shy on self-criticism, with employee feedback laying bare some institutional failings. But with its 2020 target of 50:20:12 – referring to the proportion of women, black and minority ethnic, and disabled people in the organisation – all fulfilled, the focus now is on the finer-grained aspects of company culture and accountability that must be improved upon.

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As the document’s introduction states, “With this new plan, we aim to build a truly inclusive culture at the BBC, where people see themselves represented, feel they can do their best work, meet their career aspirations and thrive. We are the world’s leading public service broadcaster, and we want to be the UK’s most inclusive media organisation.”

The new ten-point plan aims to address points and concerns raised in a consultation exercise conducted across the organisation last summer, comprising an online survey involving 8,300 staff and more than 50 focus groups. Staff were most satisfied by the general impression of the BBC’s “culture”, but satisfaction on the chances for recruitment and progression, as well as the competence of its leadership, was found to be lacking. Results varied for these across different diversity demographics, with ethnic minority staff representing the most significant difference. In the report’s words: “Staff say they are proud of the BBC values and are committed to public service. However, a lack of inclusivity featured as a theme throughout.” More damningly, “It was strongly felt that the BBC does not have a culture of actively listening, or giving quality feedback,” and “its culture was described as resistant to deep-rooted change”.

For 2021-2023, the personnel targets of 50:20:12 will be maintained from the prior commitments, but the ten new pledges put in clearer language how to tackle what can’t be measured in statistics. The subjects of each of the points risk overlapping in aim, but some of the most notable are: Expanding the Pool of Diverse Senior Leaders, Investing in Diverse Leadership, Growth in Entry-level Opportunities, and Transforming Recruitment.

In creating an environment predicated on diversity, executives are looking for quantifiable aims, and the new frontiers of this ongoing process are to engender diversity among the management class, which one could call the “gatekeepers”. The BBC’s report is cognisant of this and speaks of “diverse succession pipelines, targeting mapping of internal and external talent” as well as a leadership programme, enabling 20-30 candidates to be “move-ready”. This goes hand in hand with recruitment at the lower ends of the company, as well as improved staff networks (some of the BBC’s are Ability, for disabled people; Embrace, led by BAME; and RAISED, for staff from lower socio-economic backgrounds). New performance assessment methods, including one for executives called the Senior Leader Index, will encourage what is nicely described as “two-way accountability”. These new measures will be put in place at staggered rates across the three-year period.

On a more pragmatic note, Diversity & Inclusions lead Miguela Gonzalez notes how important it is, from a business angle, to “stop thinking about diversity as a problem to be solved and [to] start thinking of it as an essential component”. As can be seen here, the principles of diversity and inclusion are indivisible from the BBC’s ambitions as a world media standard-bearer.

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