Mind the Ethnicity Gap

October 25, 2019
Posted in articles
October 25, 2019 Emma Lisanti

It's Only Up for this BAME Network Group

Bernadette Thompson, from the Civil Service’s Race to the Top, writes about just how much network groups can achieve.

Three years ago, Anita Bhalla invited me to co-chair the Race to the Top G6/7 Network. I said yes, and it is one of the best decisions I ever made.

We established in 2016 with the specific aim of supporting ethnic minority colleagues in the feeder grades to the Senior Civil Service (SCS) to thrive and progress. Overall, we wanted to help address the prominent lack of ethnic diversity at senior government levels.


Membership has grown rapidly, now connecting approximately 1000 members. As a network, we have grown from strength to strength and continue to make a tangible Civil Service impact, delivering the largest annual diversity programme run by any government employee network – our flagship programme, the BAME G6/7 SCS Shadowing Programme.


What We Do:


We support members to gain greater insights into leadership at the next levels, holding many events giving members direct access to very senior Civil Service leaders. We also work with a range of partners to deliver bespoke training and are particularly grateful to the Institute for Government for sessions covering their research insights on government effectiveness and for the ongoing support of This is Thrive consulting.

Our Network is known for a particularly high level of events and activities including a prominent Women in Leadership Series. I wanted to make sure our BAME women members have opportunities to discuss leadership challenges and intersectionality in a safe space with the most senior Civil Service female leaders. We also hold an annualInternational Men’s Day BAME Role Models conference focusing on the lack of progression of BAME men in the Civil Service. Our inaugural event last year was a great success with a fabulous panel of senior BAME men.

CS diversity awards 2

It has been great to see the Network’s rapid growth and development in a short space of time. Having direct support and time with our most senior leaders has been a great help. I have an ongoing reverse mentoring relationship with John Manzoni, Civil Service Chief Executive, which has been an excellent opportunity to ‘speak truth to power’.

Sir Richard Heaton, Civil Service Race Champion, has also supported our network’s Charter for Change, circulating this to all race champions across government.

We are currently the ENEI – Public Sector Employee Network Group of the Year 2019 and recently won the Employee Network Excellence Category at the Civil Service Diversity awards. I am proud of our achievements and the benefits we have brought to the Civil Service and public sector race equality and inclusion agenda. Most of all, I am delighted at the level of support and range of opportunities we have provided for our strongly growing membership.