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Diversity in Leadership: A chief executive's point of view

Sport Birmingham

This blog is part of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce’s (ABCC) Diversity in Leadership campaign.

The Diversity in Leadership campaign works with some of the regions’ biggest employers in order to boost the numbers of women and those from black and minority ethnic (BAME), lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and disability groups being represented on boards of directors and in leadership roles.

Click here to find out more about the campaign.

Working as Chief Executive of the City’s Sports Partnership for the last 5 years has significantly increased my awareness and consciousness of many aspects of equality and diversity.

As a middle-aged (soon to be older-aged) white man, it’s especially important that I am surrounded by friends and colleagues in work and the community who have experienced some of the prejudices and discrimination that I haven’t had to endure directly. I am rightly and regularly reminded of examples from a gender, ethnicity and disability perspective in particular.

I work in an industry that has many high-profile examples of inequality, particularly in parts of professional sport and sports governance; however things are changing positively by recognition of need for system change and challenge to structures and leadership that has, for too long, not embraced diversity and equality.

I was born in a small village in Staffordshire and until the age of 8 had not seen a black person; when my Father took me along to Heath Town Judo Club in Wolverhampton, my eyes were opened up and I forged lifelong friendships travelling all around the country and the world.

The club was predominantly made up of black players from poorer families – players who were financially supported to attend, and who went on to become World and Olympic medallists in the sport. In many ways sport (like music and dance) provides that valuable ’space’ for integration and for understanding as personal relationships flourish across varied cultural backgrounds.

However, at the same time in the 70s and 80s the club had very few female players and the sport of judo was not considered to be ‘for girls’ by the majority of male coaches around; so wonderful ethnic diversity and equality, but not so in terms of gender diversity. Of course we still have a long way to go as male professional sport dominates TV coverage, but equality has come closer in some areas such as prize-money for Wimbledon and Olympic event parity.

As a business we have recently gone through a vigorous assessment of our governance, achieving compliance at top tier 3 against the UK Sport/Sport England Code for Sports Governance, which included a significant element about diversity; this for the board of trustees, our staff team, and also in every aspect of the work we do in terms of developing community sport and physical activity.

Our mission is ’to use the power of sport and physical activity to improve lives’ and the focus of all of our investment is on those individuals and communities that are most under-represented and disadvantaged.  Therefore our partnerships and the places in which we work absolutely have to be reflective of our purpose - to ensure that we are credible and trusted by the community.

Embracing diversity is fundamental to our effectiveness as a business, but also to our responsibility for everyone’s personal growth and development. 

We are committed to constantly challenge ourselves and invite challenge from the community, to ensure we keep improving!