Recently in Diversity Watch Category

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote Launch Simon Woolley speaks in Liverpool Town Hall 001a.jpg Liverpool's Operation Black Vote programme was launched today in our Town Hall. This ambitious movement intends to establish an emerging generation of politicians of all 'races', cultures and faiths, who have been mentored early in their careers by existing councillors. The event this evening demonstrated that OBV's aim is shared by all our civic leaders, and that they believe they will indeed deliver.

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  launch Liverpool Town Hall 007a

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote Cllr Anna Rothery 320x300 l 008a 08.05.29a Operation Black Vote: The next generation?   Keziah Makena 010a

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  Cllrs Anna Rothery & Joe Anderson 011

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote Liverpool Town Hall reception 026a 08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  Janet Robinson & Francine Fernandes 365x385 027a

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  Lord Mayor Cllr Rotheram & OBV participants 020a


Further information on Operation Black Vote.

Read more:
Social Inclusion & Diversity

Camera & Calendar

Diverse crowd 177x110 076a.jpg Today (20 February 2008) saw the formal launch of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA)'s Equality and Diversity Framework and Network. The event, at the Abbey Community Centre in Westminster, was attended by people from across the regeneration world, and produced much discussion about how BURA and its partners could move forward.

In my role as BURA Champion for Equality and Diversity I was lucky enough to join our President, Sir Jeremy Beecham, and other colleagues, in presenting and discussing initial ideas about this challenging issue.

Your views too are welcome. To begin the debate, this is what I said:

BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework Launch
Wednesday 20 February 2008, Westminster, London


This event was set up, as Sir Jeremy explained, because of serious concerns which the BURA Board has about inclusivity in regeneration.

The evidence is before our eyes; the top of the profession is overwhelmingly populated by white men.

Regeneration fits the white male stereotype for leadership in Britain only too well; and the stereotype extends even to the BURA Board itself, where Directors are elected from amongst our hundreds of members.

Something has to be done. No-one disputes that, as regeneration practitioners, we must address inclusion; but few of us have articulated how this intention fits in with regeneration. And fewer still I suspect, are sure how to do it.

The BURA Board has therefore decided to invite your help and support as we move forward on this challenging issue.

What is inclusivity and why does it matter?
A look at the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission gives us a good feel for what an inclusive society might look like.

It would be a society in which people had safe and secure opportunities to enjoy a happy and healthy life.

In this society people of every sort would find themselves in positions of influence and leadership, and able to work towards a situation which in turn releases the potential of others.

This would be a society in which we, as regeneration practitioners, understood the impact of our work on all our fellow citizens, and then applied that knowledge across all our activities.

It would be a society in which, say, Asian women in Bury had as much opportunity to develop their interests and employment potential as white men in Cheltenham. It would be a society in which families in both these communities were equally likely to see their children born healthy and strong, with an equal expectation of a long and happy life.

In a nutshell, it would be a society which is stable and sustainable.

And if regeneration isn’t about achieving socio-economic stability and environmental sustainability, I don’t know what is.

Regeneration is more than the sum of its parts
I believe firmly that the task of today’s regeneration practitioners is to work themselves out of a job. We need to believe at a very deep level that ‘regeneration’ is not the same as ‘construction’, or ‘remediation’, or even as ‘planning’.

Critical though these callings are, real regeneration is much more than that.

After 30 years of regeneration in Britain, we should now be seeking very actively to reinvent ourselves as ‘sustainability practitioners’, as professionals who work to maintain an equitable, healthy and safe environment for everyone.

This reinvention of ourselves would require massive changes in the way we work, in our collaborations across disciplinary boundaries, and in our perceptions of how fellow citizens who are not exactly like ourselves experience their lives.

We can’t do that if we don’t understand how to achieve inclusivity, and why it matters.

But there is a very long way to go.

What is BURA doing about itself?
* Firstly, we have undertaken a thorough audit of our own organisation.

* We have looked at the gender and ethnicity of all members of staff and the Board, going back for three years, and for staff we have correlated this with salary bands. We shall report these findings to the Board when it next meets, and post a summary of this information thereafter on our website.

* We will also decide as a Board, in consultation with, we hope, our new Chief Executive, how much more data it might or might not be appropriate to record about the Board and staff.

* And we shall consult too on whether and, if so, how we need to look at the ‘inclusion’ characteristics of all BURA members.

* We would hope at the same time to start research on these characteristics as they apply to the regeneration sector as a whole, and to see how this compares with the data for the British population overall.

What is BURA doing to support progress in regeneration overall?
* Importantly, we are not seeking to compete with anyone; we are offering a supportive network which encompasses the whole spectrum of interests - inclusive, not competitive, with the sole aim of moving this positive agenda forward.

* Also, we recognise that no-one as yet has all the answers; we are simply trying, with everyone else, to identify both the challenges and the opportunities.

* We are launching today a Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework, an ‘umbrella’ group welcoming people and organisations from every part of regeneration, ‘professional’ to ‘community’, to address a wide range of issues around equality and diversity.
This group will not seek to undertake work already done by others, but will help to link together the inclusion themes which regeneration good practice must address.

Some examples of what the BURA E&D Framework seeks to achieve
* We will support the exchange of information and views about what are the most immediate challenges for Equality and Diversity in regeneration in the UK.

* We will seek to collaborate with government at local and national level, and with research bodies already examining aspects of Equality and Diversity.

* We will develop the BURA website as a free open-access resource, available to all, hosting weblinks to legal and professional aspects of regeneration practice – including equality and legal audits – and enabling wider discussion between BURA members and partners.

* We will offer practical help and support to people from different communities who wish to become involved in regeneration – perhaps for instance by offering bursaries and work placements – in a collaboration between BURA and our members and corporate partners.

* But most of all, we will seek to work with all of you to make the BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework not just a talking shop, but a vibrant and positive reality.

In for the duration
* This is however slow-burn. We're asking the questions but we don't as yet have many of the answers; everyone here today can help.

* The BURA Board are unanimous that we must work hard to make our Equality and Diversity Framework a reality, not just an ambition.

We very much hope that you will want to be part of this reality.


Contact Hilary at BURA

Liverpool Bombed Church & Chinese New Year 170x126 027b.jpg Next week sees the launch in Westminster, London of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework.
The BURA Board has unanimously resolved to try honestly to do what regeneration is supposed to do - reduce inequality and discrimination through the creation of environments where people can lead sustainable, happy and fulfilling lives.

From the regeneration perspective, equality and diversity are difficult things to get one’s head around. There are so many variables.

I tend therefore to approach these issues from the ‘other end’, and to ask myself the Big Question: what might a community look like when we’ve finished ‘regenerating’ it?

Put that way, things begin to fall into place.

Two futures
Two outlooks are possible for a place or community which has received the full attention of the regeneration professionals.

Either it will thrive, moving forward to a happier future, where people feel fulfilled and their needs are met in a much more embedded way than before; or it will in time lose its expensive new patina and sink into a deeper, sadder, less secure state even than before.

These different outcomes depend largely on the extent to which that community has been enabled to achieve sustainability.

Three aspects to sustainability
Sustainability has three major aspectss: physical (‘environmental’), economic and social. None of these can be achieved longer term without the others.

Sustainability is impossible without equality and diversity; so regeneration too is underpinned by them.

A stark truth
The Commission for Racial Equality’s final blast at the regeneration business, when in late 2007 that organisation became a part of the new Equality and Human Rights Commission, was well placed. It demonstrated, starkly, that ‘race’ issues remain desperately under-addressed in regeneration.

And it certainly made the Board of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) sit up. Already painfully aware of a lack of diversity at the top table, now we had undeniable evidence about one critically core aspect of disadvantage.

Many realities, many ways forward
The more we looked at disadvantage – whether resulting from age, religion and belief, disability, gender, race or sexual orientation - the more it seemed to stem from the same issues; issues most often around opportunities and resources which people feel they have been denied.

The multiple realities of ‘ordinary’ people’s lives are what define our communities and how they interface with the wider society. This then, surely, is what regeneration is all about?

Where to begin?
So here is BURA’s starting point.

As leading players in regeneration, BURA’s Board has resolved to try honestly to do what regeneration is supposed to do – which is to reduce inequality and discrimination through the creation of environments where people can lead happy and fulfilling lives.

To do this we will look carefully and immediately at how we can put our own house in order; we will listen to and liaise with as many other interested parties as we can; we will seek out, and where necessary and possible commission, research which informs our ambition; and we will take the message wherever it needs to go.

We introduced the BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework concept at our 2008 annual conference, in January. We shall launch it formally at our London event on 20 February; and we will monitor our progress thoroughly as we move forward.

We hope you too will want to be part of this journey.

Hilary Burrage is a member of the BURA Board, and BURA Equality and Diversity Champion. (hilary@bura.org.uk)


The BURA Equality and Diversity campaign is supported by New Start and Ecotec.

This article is a version of the piece published in New Start, 15 February 2008.
See also: New Start survey reveals doubts over cohesion and New Start Editorial of 13 February 2008.

What's Regeneration For?

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
City model regen. 131x93 604a.jpg The British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) annual conference is in Liverpool this year, on 30th and 31st January 2008. The conference, bringing together some 300 people, will see brisk debates between professionals and community leaders from across the U.K. One important focus may be the search for consensus on what regeneration is 'about'.

BURA is an organisation moving forward with increasing momentum and confidence in both its own role and the direction and meaning of regeneration in Britain.

What is regeneration?
We, as members of the Board of BURA, are beginning to understand anew, or at least consciously to explore in a new way, what ‘regeneration’ means. The discussion will doubtless continue for a long time yet; but for me some clarity is emerging from many years in the business.

Regeneration is much more than ‘construction’, ‘development’ or even 'capacity building'.

In the end, regeneration is about adding long-term shared value to all these activities.

A win-win
Regeneration’s a real win-win; it’s about creating a more equitable, more sustainable life-context for everyone.

The challenge is, how to do it.

The UK is often said to be at the forefront of regeneration. BURA's annual conference discussions this week should prove interesting.

London cranes 3924   109x115.jpg The renewal of King's Cross - St Pancras and all that surrounds it is long overdue, but it looks to be a spectaclar project worth the wait. The final moves to achieve success in terms of the local community will however require those who should, to put their heads above the parapet so that everything comes together to make the best possible result. This project will 'work' for everyone as long as people really try to collaborate to get it right.

Having travelled on the bus past King's Cross - St. Pancras on very many occasions, I can only say my heart lifted when, at last, evidence of its renaissance began to materialise.

Community links and challenges
It's surely a unique and exciting challenge to put together a project as enormous and impactful as this. The project hits many buttons - strategic place, infrastructure, heritage, economic benefit; we could go on... King's Cross is in anyone's books a very spectacular and special piece of real estate.

Of course there's still a possibility that King's Cross will somehow miss on that vital community connection; but only if people on all sides of the equation let it. This is where civic and corporate leadership have such a critical part to play, right from day one.

Different from, say, Canary Wharf?
Given the common emphasis on transport hubs, there have been comparisons, but Canary Wharf is different. Just for a start, Canary Wharf is not at the heart of what's to become the most important international 'green' hub connecting the UK and mainland Europe, and for another thing the Wharf is a glass and concrete creation with not too much reference to a long and glorious heritage.

King's Cross is a genuine opportunity to build on a very high profile USP with enormous promise for all stakeholders.

Doubters and objectors
There are always people who oppose what's happening. The financial and other costs of the debate with them may well be high, but in the end everyone has to be heard for progress to be made in a well-founded way. The line must be drawn somewhere, but the views of those with reservations are valuable because they help to pinpoint potential hazards further down that line.

But it's up to everyone to make sure that in the end King's Cross really works. This is a programme with serious commonality of interest between developers, the wider economic infrastructure and real people on whom the project impacts day by day.

Delivering success
Having seen examples elsewhere of exiting programmes based with various degrees of success in challenging locations, I'd say everyone, but everyone, involved has to ask, what more might I need to be doing to make King's Cross fulfil its whole potential?

Of all the 'Rules of Regeneration', the first rule here must be: listen, seek to understand and where possible accommodate all stakeholders. And the second rule is, always remember someone has to be brave and take the lead, accountably and visibly.

Realistically forward-facing
This is not a time for pursuing plans regardless or for heads-in-the-sand-style denial of problems; but nor, most certainly, is it a time for standing back. King's Cross is an
I watch from my bus as things come together week by week and I wish all involved the very best.

A version of this article was published on the New Start blog of 8 November 2007.

Liverpool Radio City & 08 Tower 616  93x96.jpg Abrupt curtailment of the 2007 Mathew Street Festival, silly ideas about removing fish so the docks become a concert arena, questions about preparations for the Big Year.... Liverpool 2008 is a drama unto itself. The leading arts venues have devised a pretty good cultural programme for European Capital of Culture Year, but concerns about what else needs to be done remain.

There’s a jolly good row going on in Liverpool just now.

The minority Labour Group on the City Council wants an independent review of the 2007 Mathew Street Festival – not to mention an explanation for the recent Sir Paul and the Fish fiasco - whilst the ruling LibDem Group so far appears content to receive a previewed Mathew Street report from their own officers.

Costs and concerns
This furious debate concerns the abrupt cancellation of the international Mathew Street Festival as an outdoor event, and questions about hundreds of thousands of pounds apparently expended on a now-abandoned plan to stun (and remove to claimed safety) the piscine inhabitants of one of Liverpool’s splendid docks, before draining it to create an arena for Paul McCartney’s much trumpeted appearance in the city during the 2008 European Capital of Culture year.

Given such corporate Who Dunnit dramatics, one might well ask whether professional entertainers are required at all.

Liverpool life as theatre
But of course there’s more than this to add into the ever-changing theatre which constitutes the City of Liverpool. In less than one hundred days (as I write) the momentous 2008 will be upon us.

And, to be fair, some excellent cultural events have now been announced for the year. We are to have Klimt at the Tate, Simon Rattle with the Berliner Philharmoniker (and later with the RLPO, as a member of which he began his career), adventurous programming from the Everyman and Playhouse, the Turner Prize, the Anne Frank Exhibition and much else.

It’s a huge relief that these events have been secured; many were afraid we were about to have a ‘cultureless’ European Year of Culture, with all the embarrassment that would bring.

Culture and leadership
But, perhaps as at this stage in other cities who have been through the Year of Culture experience, there remains continuing concern about how it all fits, and who’s in charge.

There seems little convincing evidence those being paid the most (who some say are departing in droves) have brought the most to the cultural agenda. That was very largely done by the individual arts organisations.

And this brings us to the big question: What’s it for? And which of our white, male hegemony of leaders is going (or able) to tell us?

Bringing in the real world
One place where we can begin to find answers is the Grosvenor (Liverpool One) development. This 17 ha mixed use site in the heart of the city centre has an investment value of £920m and will be completed in 2008. It is almost entirely privately funded and has a huge emphasis on retail and leisure.

Leading this venture is the sharply focused Rodney Holmes, a man who knows a challenge when he sees one. Unflappable and consistently approachable, Holmes is nonetheless ready when events so demand to articulate his requirements.

Recently, these demands included specific actions for the preparation of Liverpool for its year of glory (and, as it happens, the opening of the Grosvenor venture) – demands also supported by Jim Gill, the respected CEO of city-centre regeneration company Liverpool Vision, who now chairs the Countdown Group to deliver what is required.

Past or future?
Slowly, then, the cultural and commercial components of Liverpool’s future are falling into place. But it would be hard to give full credit to city leaders in all this. Rather, it feels that individual elements of the visible fabric of the city have taken things into their own hands and, in the end, just got on with it.

And this is perhaps the problem. Whilst those with vision look to the future, the official powers-that-be continue to hark on about the Beatles and Scouse (a traditional hotpot meal or a dialect, depending on context). Scouse and the Beatles are both in their different ways attractive elements of our heritage for visitors and residents alike, but can they take us forward?

Leadership and local understandings
Whilst the heritage elements of Liverpool life still resonate with many Liverpudlians, fewer feel any warmth towards the great cultural events and enterprise opportunities which 2008 presents.

There is a failure of leadership, an unwillingness to articulate ambition and opportunity, which it seems cannot be shaken off. Frequent cries by the local citizenry that ‘all this is fine, but it’s not for me’, meet only with reassurance that there will ‘also’ be things for ‘the community’ (as there surely will).

Missing is head-on challenge to the notion that excellent formal culture and serious enterprise are somehow not for ‘ordinary people’.

Involving the people
Grosvenor’s Liverpool One has a significant community engagement programme. All the flagship cultural organisations have their versions of the same. How do these fit into the greater scheme of things? Where are the cultural and entrepreneurial horizons and ambition? The missing link is our civic leaders.

There’s no longer any civic mileage in The Beatles’ When I’m Sixty Four. Paul McCartney is now older than that. And Scouse is a matter of minor gastronomic / historical interest but hardly the whole story in a city which aims through Liverpool One shortly to offer the full five stars for its more affluent cultural and business visitors.

Exclusion zones?
Whilst some in Liverpool 8 (Toxteth) still believe, or feel comfortable declaring, that the city centre is a ‘no-go’ area for people of colour, whilst those in the outer zones continue to claim total invisibility, whilst the roles of education and enterprise are seen as so irrelevant by so many, Liverpool’s resurgence remains painfully fragile.

Tempting as for some it may be to lay blame here or there for this state of affairs, blame takes us nowhere. It’s action which will do the trick.

Courage to change
We need leaders who seek out and actively nurture Liverpool’s diversity in talent and persona;
leaders who proudly proclaim they personally attend and enjoy the best of our cultural offerings formal and informal, and they want everyone else to as well;
leaders who have the courage to explain that heritage is precious but also that sometimes things need to change;
leaders who see the fit between culture and knowledge, who value Biotech and Beethoven as much as the Beatles;
and leaders, most importantly of all, who understand the fundamental difference between ‘disloyalty’ to a city and serious citizen engagement in the on-going debate.

Change of this sort cannot be achieved by default or vague sentimental aspiration. It requires deep focus, a core shift in the culture of our city. And it requires absolutely no more silliness involving, say, festival financial fiascos or stunned fish and Macca.

The cabbie is correct
One takes the views of cab drivers with a pinch of salt. But my driver yesterday was spot on. Liverpool’s buzzing at the moment, he opined. But what will it be like in 2009?

Liverpool Town Hall dome 0771 (115x92).jpg Civic leadership in action requires a range of perspectives and understandings. No single 'type' of person can hold all the wisdom to take communities forward in this complex age. A range of experience is required. The overwhelmingly white, male hegemony in Liverpool's corridors of power is a civic embarrassment, demonstrating a fundamental lack of will to learn from the richly diverse insights of its citizens.

For everyone to flouish, civic direction must draw on the life experience of us all. Sadly however this is a lesson yet to be learnt in Liverpool.

In April Liverpool's Liberal Democrat-led City Council set up the long-needed Countdown Group in an attempt to sort the physical regeneration of Liverpool before our big European Capital of Culture year in 2008.

Currently, in September, Council leaders are doing the same with the Board of the Culture Company, with even less time for manoeuvre to achieve success.

Singular perspective
Both the Countdown programme and Culture Board are now led exclusively by white men. But with such a singular perspective, how can these City Council appointees even hope to do a decent job for everyone?

It needs saying yet again: Liverpool's political leaders have no idea how to engage all the richly diverse talents of this city's citizens.

Exclusion zone
Such wilful exclusion of women, and of people from the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, demonstrates a huge failure by our political leaders to reflect on inclusion before they act - a consistent omission which may well impact on the success of 2008 and beyond.

Wherever the debates about inclusion in all senses may take us, the evidence to hand suggests Liverpool probably has the most sexist Council leadership in England.

Diversity Index
I award Liverpool City Council 0 / 5 for leadership on this website's Diversity Index.

An editied version of this commentary was published as a letter in the Daily Post on 17 September 2007 and the Liverpool Echo of 21 September. Responses and commentary from other correspondents, endorsing the view, were also published on 18 September and 21 September.

Boarded Up House (small) 85x98.jpg 'Regeneration' happens when someone with influence perceives a need for improvement. But this is a process in which professionals omit to involve those to whom regeneration is being done at their peril. What follows is therefore a set of observations or 'rules', derived from direct experience, about how regeneration and community engagement may play out on the ground.

The 'Rules' below are presented from the perspective of a professional approaching a regeneration scenario. The reader might like to turn them around and 'translate' them, to reflect the possible understandings of a person 'in the community' on whose (claimed) behalf regeneration is taking place.

1) It is very difficult to ensure that everyone 'knows' what they need / would like to know.

2) People at all levels get suspicious / unhelpful if they feel 'left out of the loop'.

3) Identifying legitimate Stakeholders is always a challenge - not all of them are formal.

4) Professional practitioners are not the font of all knowledge.

5) Perspectives and language (discourse / terms) may vary dramatically between parties.

6) Expectations may similarly vary, and can be challenging to manage.

7) It is essential to start any programme by identifying 'what works' and protecting that.

8) Who is 'qualified' to undertake such 'what works' identification can be problematic.

9) Participants' understandings develop over time; what they'd initially asked for will change.

10) The same may also apply to the professionals involved - especially if they are sensitive to context.

11) Sustainability - social, economic, physical - is often overlooked in practice, if not in theory.

12) There is rarely a clear end-point (when does 'regeneration' finish?)

13) Engagement is by definition voluntary; it can never be forced, but is very necessary.

14) Equipping people to engage often requires patience, skill and thoughtful leadership.

15) Many stakeholders only really become interested when the chequebook arrives; be ready and beware!


These observations formed part of a lecture delivered (by Hilary Burrage) on 23 April 2007 to Masters' students of social policy and political science at Charles University, Prague, in the Czech Republic.



What do you think?
Do these 'rules' reflect your experience? And are there other 'rules' to add to these?


Graduation caps & heads (small) 70x144.jpg Graduate retention is a serious aspect of any decent policy for regeneration. But the emphasis on new / young graduates alone is strange, when there are always also other highly qualified and more experienced people who might offer at least as much in any developing economy.

A recurring theme in the regeneration of cities and regions is the emphasis on retention of graduates. This is an entirely reasonable focus, given the cost of producing graduates and the potential which they have in terms of economic value. The flight of bright graduates from regional to capital cities is a well-marked issue for most regional economies.

Reducing the loss of graduate talent is generally a task allocated to the regional universities which have educated them. There is a whole sector of most regional knowledge economies which is dedicated simply to training and retaining graduates in the hope that they will enhance the economic performance of that region.

Extending the scope for retention
There are also now schemes which train 'women returners', women who have taken time out to raise a family or who have only later in their working lives decided to develop their formal skills. Generally these schemes give good value for the 'returners' and their future employers, at least in terms of providing competent middle-level practitioners and professionals; and certainly they can make a really significant difference to the lives of the women who undertake the training.

Overlooked and under-used
But there is another group of people with high skills who are often simply not geared into their local and regional economy in any meaningful way. These are often older, highly qualified and experienced graduate women who are no longer working (but are usually not registered as unemployed), and who may remain living in an area because they have family or other personal commitments there.

These women generally do not need any further training (except in the same way that other practising professionals might need it) and they often undertake a good deal of voluntary and unpaid work in their communities. Little of this work however is given any formal economic value, and even less of it is focused strategically on the requirements of their economic location.

How could their activities be strategically focused, when these women, often for reasons beyond their individual control, may have almost no continuing professional connection in their communities?

Invisible people
In an economy with a significant proportion of women leaders and decision-makers the 'invisible' older female graduate might be identified as a person with serious economic potential, someone for whom every effort should be made to find or create suitable high-level employment or enterprise opportunities commensurate with her qualifications and experience.

Highly qualified men are likely, we might suppose, to move to a job elsewhere which meets their requirements; the women may have no choice but to relinquish their employment, if their family moves elsewhere or if circumstances mean their job disappears. In many challenged regional and local economies however the scope to realise this female potential remains unperceived by those (mostly men) who decide the strategy for their local economies.

Doing the audit
Has anyone tried to estimate the numbers of 'non-economically-productive' highly qualified older women in a given regional or local economy undergoing regeneration? Does anyone know what these women currently contribute informally to their economies, or what they could contribute formally in the right contexts?

Older women are often seemingly invisible. My guess, from many private encounters, discussions and observations over the past few years, is that here is an almost totally untapped resource.

Nurturing all available resources
Retention of young graduates is of course critical to economic renaissance; but so is the gearing in of the potential of older and more experienced graduates. This is another example of why economic regeneration strategists need to appreciate and nurture more carefully what they already have, as well as what they would like for the future to procure.

This article is also linked from the New Start magazine blog of 14 March 2007.

Women at market (small) 70x71.jpg Today (8 March) is International Women's Day, when women are celebrated in many parts of the world. But after more than a century of campaigning, women and men remain unequal in wealth and power. It's time for an overtly feminist, gendered approach to economics, examining the differential impacts and advantages of economic activity on women and men.

The campaign for 'women's rights' has been going for a very long time now.

One of the original texts about women's rights, The Subjection of Women, was written in1869 by the Scottish radical philosopher John Stuart Mill. That's almost a century and a half ago. And so very much more has been written, said and done about this issue since then.

The question is, therefore: despite worthy events such as International Women's Day, why is there still such a long way to go?

Convenient inertia
'Convenient' is probably too kind a word to describe the collective failure to see the negative experience of most women in regard to economics, employment, public life and business. Nonetheless, the word convenience points us in the right direction if we want to explain the stifling inertia many women experience in their quest simply for equality.

There are many fair-minded and decent men, but there are also large numbers who would rather see inequality and exploitation anywhere except on their own doorstep. And since men still have more power and influence than women, it's often their perspectives which have the most weight. 'Women's equality' may not be a taboo subject, but it is certainly a sidelined one.

There's always something more urgent and important to address...

Economic analysis
So let's start to approach this, seriously, another way. Let's look routinely and quite expressly at how women and men fare in the economy and the corridors of power.

In other words, let's have an Economics which uses gender as an analytical tool in the same way that other Social Science analysis does. Only once the unspoken taboo had been broken did social scientists begin to perceive the realities of gender impact, direct and indirect, on society itself.

Moves in the right direction
Big steps are being made, with the introduction of equality standards for all English local authorities.

As part of these standards, Gender Impact Assessments, required from April 2007, are to be the vehicle through which the Women and Equality Unit and the Department for Trade and Industry is bringing into sharp focus the issue of gender in relation to the Government's Public Service Reform.

Start them young
Government policy, excellent in intention though it may be, is one thing. Taking matters seriously in wider society, even if there are sanctions for not doing so, is sometimes another.

The next steps are to ensure that Business / Enterprise Studies and Economics embed gender differentials into their curriculum from the very start. This should be as much a part of the Economics (and other) GCSE curricula as it already is the Social Science one. Early on is the best place to start.

And at the other end of the scale corporates at every level should be required to give much more 'gendered' (and other diversity-linked) information in their annual reports. Business moves where its pocket takes it, and the bottom line here is exactly that, the visible bottom line. At a time of claimed skills shortages, becoming gender conscious is good for business, as well as good for people.

Progress?
There are small initiatives such as the idea of the Conference Diversity Index, and also some much larger pointers to the future which thread through this train of thought.

In 2006 the London Business School launched the Lehman Brothers Business Centre for Women, with the intention of providing solutions for the challenges that businesses face in attracting and retaining talented women.

Signs of success
But alongside the urgent necessity to get more women to the very 'top' we need to ensure that most of them don't stay much nearer the bottom.

The costs of gender inequality impinge on us all. There are a few thinkers and scholars who have established a baseline here, but only when gender is a clearly articulated part of mainstream public consciousness, politics and business will we really be getting somewhere.

A shorter version of this article was published as a letter in The Guardian on 8 March 2007.

Recent Entries

Conference Diversity Index: The Sustainable Development Of The Liverpool City Region
I have already written on this weblog (and in New Start magazine) about my intention to develop a Conference Diversity…
Diversity Watch Widens
We have already established the Conference Diversity Index on this website. Now it seems we need to widen the scope…
The BURA ‘Futures’ Debate
I went to the ‘Futures’ Debate at the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Annual Conference in Milton Keynes, on October…