Happy New Year! This week the Financial Times and other newspapers reported that concerns have been raised over interview questions asked of a gay candidate for Lord Mayor of London. The process which determines who holds the 830-year-old title has been sharply criticised – and rightly so.
It is alleged that an openly gay candidate was asked how they would prevent the one-year mayoralty being “hijacked” by the gay community and how they would make up for his lack of a “consort”, the partner (not always spouse) who accompanies a Lord Mayor during official engagements.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was quoted in the FT observing “It is difficult to see why such a question was necessary (…) Would they have asked the same of anyone from other protected groups? All the evidence shows that a diverse workforce leads to better decisions and any employer ought to be mindful not to alienate a large section of talented people by asking irrelevant questions.”
I share the concerns about the selection process for the post, which has prompted an external review led by headhunters Saxton Bampfylde.
In the interest of transparency and to send out a clear message that any form of discrimination is unacceptable I think it would be wise if the review and it’s recommendations are published.
Businesses and society have moved on, and it is time for the last few in the City stuck in the previous century to do the same.
In particular because we have made signficant progress over the last view years and I know that the City of London Corporation is committed to ensuring there are no barriers to any member of our community standing for the elected office of Lord Mayor or indeed as Alderman or Common Councillor. Most elected representatives support our aspiration to be a leader in diversity and inclusion.
Last year for example the City Corporation adopted a series of recommendations of the members diversity working group – of which I am a member – setting an aspiration to improve representation by 2021 election to 30% women and 15% BAME councillors and Aldermen.
Elected members were also invited to sign a diversity charter as personal commitment to improve representation. I am proud to have been one of the early signatories together with our Alderman and my fellow Common Councillors in the Ward of Cheap – see more info here.