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Diversifying the Civil Service

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2 Diversifying the Civil Service
Daniel Foster Civil Service Islamic Society (chair) Nazir Afzal, OBE Crown Prosecution Service London West (director) 3rd April 2008

3 Key messages Muslims are a growing minority in the UK
Evidence they are underrepresented at higher grades in the civil service This is despite high education levels of Muslim civil servants Sir Gus O’Donnell wants the Civil Service to be the #1 employer for Muslims in the UK Permanent secretaries, diversity leads, HR, policy makers and line managers have a part to play The CSIS is here to help

4 The survey Early in 2006 the CSIS surveyed 101 Muslim civil servants
Respondents were predominantly Whitehall based They came from around 15 different departments Results are indicative rather than conclusive But this is the best information we have so far Regarding the information we have so far: Cabinet Office has issued guidance requesting (NB not requiring) departments to provide faith information as part of their equality monitoring, but only three have complied with this. We have yet to see any analysis around this data. Colleagues may be reluctant to divulge their religious beliefs? CSIS encourages faith monitoring on HR forms nonetheless so that HR can monitor patterns of promotions etc by faith, just as it is done based on gender and make it easier to identify any inequalities. We want it to become part of mainstream monitoring rather than just an optional add-on.

5 Some Statistics Awareness
85% of respondents felt their beliefs were respected But 56% felt colleagues lacked even a basic understanding of Islam 30% felt they couldn’t discuss Islam freely in the workplace 85% felt their beliefs were respected That’s an excellent figure and it’s certainly been my experience through most of my career in the civil service so far: people have gone a long way to accommodate me and I really appreciate that. When that hasn’t been the case, I’ve been able to chalk most of it up to ignorance about my religion in particular. I don’t think it’s too surprising that the majority felt colleagues lacked any kind of understanding about Islam. What worries me is that a third felt they couldn’t discuss Islam at work. I’m not really looking at this from the perspective that people should be able to approach their colleagues in a kind of “well brother, have you heard the good news about Islam – God is ready to forgive you for your sins!” - I think that’s probably something people can work out in their own time. What we’re looking for here is for people to be able to raise with their colleagues behaviours and practices that may make them uncomfortable from a religious perspective, any needs they might have in terms of time to pray etc and any activities that might exclude them because of religion. To give a couple of examples: It’s relatively well known that Muslims are obliged to pray 5 times a day. There’s a specific interval for each prayer and I’ll need to make anywhere between 1 and 3 of those prayers in my working day. That’s going to get a lot harder to do if I don’t have the relationship with my colleagues where I feel I can step away from my desk or duck out of a meeting for 10 minutes without making some kind of excuse, and in general Muslims aren’t allowed to lie! That’s especially true if I’m under a deadline or my team’s running short, but unless my health or wellbeing is under threat, I still need to make that prayer. What’s better known but perhaps less accommodated is that Muslims can’t eat pork or drink alcohol. Why’s that relevant to everyone else? Well my experiences of teamworking and even a lot of training events is that the vast majority of them end up in a pub or a restaurant. Now Muslims will differ in how they handle this, but certainly my understanding is that we’re not even supposed to go into a pub. As for a restaurant that serves pork? Well I’d be very reluctant to eat there and I’d definitely prefer not to go in at all. So that means if I’m in your team and I don’t feel like I can discuss this with you, I’m going to have to either compromise my religious values or miss out on a lot of networking and training opportunities.

6 Some Statistics Discrimination
78% of respondents felt they were treated equally at work But 44% felt Muslims don’t have the same opportunities as others in the Civil Service, and 31% have been discriminated against because of their faith So what is this telling us: about four fifths feel in general they’re treated equally – that’s excellent (although of ideally we’d like everyone to be treated equally) But around a third have experienced discrimination and somewhere near a half feel Muslims in general don’t have the same opportunities as others. Well that’s a clear problem, and it looks like a contradiction. I thought it was important to include this statistic, and to include both sides of it, but to be honest I can’t give you a clear answer as to why these two numbers came out differently. One of the things that makes discrimination difficult to identify is that it comes in a lot of forms and some of them can be a real challenge to identify. A lot of reference has been made to conversations and interactions that leave people with a deep sense of discomfort, but not certain whether or not they’ve experienced discrimination. Along similar lines, people might report that their views are consistently sidelined or their opinions undermined. I think you can probably imagine it takes self confidence to actually stand up and say “no my opinion is worth more than this, and it’s not being listened to”. Then you have to decide – is it because of my ethnicity (74% of British Muslims are Asian)? Is it because of my gender? A lot of the peripheral information that came back with these responses suggested because the framework’s already there and because it’s a lot more socially acceptable to be sensitive about ethnicity that about religion, people tended to handle this as racism rather than religious discrimination.

7 Some Statistics Promotion and progression
86% of respondents felt promotion processes are fair 98% felt recruitment processes are fair But 86% of respondents were at HEO level or below The majority have degrees (some postgraduate) 45% didn’t expect to enter the SCS within their career Okay this is another big one for me: we have some excellent statistics up front followed by some shocking statistics on career expectations. I can tell you now there was only one respondent in the Fast Stream and that was me. For some reason, Muslims don’t seem to expect to get ahead in the civil service, despite being generally very well qualified. Getting more Muslims to apply to the Fast Stream is something we want to look into working with Sir Gus to improve. Hopefully Nazeer can fill in some of the gaps here about what might be driving this behaviour, since he is a Muslim who’s made it to the SCS, but certainly it seems to suggest that the processes in place once people apply are adequate even if you’re from a diverse background, but getting people to that application stage may be the challenge. That said, one of the comments we had I think from the workshops is that SCS is a “closed shop” – that it’s easier to get into from the outside than from within the Civil Service.

8 Some Statistics Facilities
81% of respondents had access to a prayer room at work But 11% were not permitted to take time off to pray 36% didn’t have access to necessary wash facilities to prepare for prayer Okay access to prayer facilities: pretty good and to be honest I was surprised this figure is so high: a lot of buildings I’ve been to don’t have prayer rooms (certainly The Adelphi didn’t when I first started there). 11% weren’t permitted time off to pray. In fact that’s so astonishing I really can’t think what to say about it: if people are being forced to compromise their religious obligations, and I can’t stress enough the centrality of prayer in Islam, because of their employer I think they have a pretty solid case for discrimination. But again, it’s possible line managers hear “prayer” and they think it’s an optional thing. If they say “no you can pray later” right off the bat, and if that initial reaction makes me scared to explain to them that there’s a specific interval within which I need to make each prayer, then you can see how we might end up in this situation. Wash facilities. Well if I’m a Muslim who prays (as in it’s something we’re obliged to do, but not all Muslims do it) then I need to wash before I pray. For a lot of people a sink is sufficient, but you feel pretty conspicuous doing it, especially when you start lifting your feet in there: this is where members are saying they start to hear negative comments from colleagues; it’s also where you start to get health and safety issues, so it’s useful if we can get proper facilities installed and it’s one of those things that sends a really clear message that it’s okay for you to be a Muslim here. If anyone wants to know more about that, I was fortunate enough to be consulted about the washrooms that were installed in The Adelphi so I can give you some more information about how that came about if that’s helpful.

9 Some Statistics And finally…
85% of respondents would recommend the Civil Service to other Muslims …(no buts) And finally – well I think that pretty much speaks for itself. I hope I’ve made it relatively clear that there are some challenges for us if we want to make the Civil Service an integrated and inclusive organisation and I think it’s definitely in our interests to do so, but the overall message we can draw from this is that Muslims who’ve entered the civil service are pleased they’ve done so. So what can we do about some of the challenges we mentioned?

10 Looking forwards Faith monitoring on a par with race monitoring
Cultural awareness training Prayer rooms and wash facilities Encouraging applications to Fast Stream and promotion boards Race and disability monitoring are fairly standard now, and I think lifestyle monitoring, which I’m using here to encompass lgbt agendas, is either here or on its way. Religiosity is a little ways behind: Cabinet Office has issued guidance requesting departments to monitor it, but it remains optional and so far I think only three or four departments have taken it up, including the Cabinet Office and the Welsh Assembly. It’s useful from two perspectives, firstly you need to monitor something before you can target it effectively: I can’t stress enough how important it is to establish data on religious discrimination if we’re trying to describe the experience of Muslims in the Civil Service. The second thing this does is establish from an institutional perspective that this is something we’re taking seriously: that if you’re BME and you’re a Muslim, that both kinds of discrimination are recognised as valid by your employer. If you or your staff might benefit from cultural awareness training, the CSIS can help you locate an appropriate provider. Certainly if tensions are arising in teams, or if individuals are demonstrating a lack of sensitivity about others, whether that’s to do with race, disabilities, religion or anything else, that’s something we want to resolve: in a lot of cases people just aren’t aware of what’s appropriate to raise in conversation on an open floor and what’s not. My personal stance is to try and make people comfortable asking just about anything, but there are a lot of questions I would rather answer by . And of course, you’re welcome to use the to ask any questions about Islam and Muslims. One of the things I’d like to achieve while I’m at the CSIS is to get a prayer room in every building where there’s a reasonable number of Muslims, and that’s relatively easy once you have Estates on board – all it needs is a quiet room that can be screened so sisters have privacy from the brothers, and there’s no reason why it has to be exclusively for Muslims; a multi faith room is fine. If this is something you want to pursue for your building, again feel free to contact the CSIS and the union has been phenomenally helpful in getting facilities in the Adelphi. Wash facilities tend to take a little more negotiations, which for us centred around health and safety issues with using sinks in the bathrooms, but again the union was a lot of help. Regarding progression in the Civil Service, it’s important to encourage people, especially Muslims who seem to be suffering in this area, to be ambitious regarding promotion and progression. Part of that means applying for higher grades and management programmes, part of it may mean going on training, locating a mentor, job shadowing and so on. The CSIS is exploring ‘excellence’ courses to see if we can find and fund one that would benefit our members – things like personal effectiveness at the National School for Government are popular. We’re also in the process of setting up a mentoring programme – there’s a lot of inconsistency between departments and disciplines as to whether and how far people are offered mentors, and how senior these are as well.

11 Key messages Muslims are a growing minority in the UK
Evidence they are underrepresented at higher grades in the civil service This is despite high education levels of Muslim civil servants Sir Gus O’Donnell wants the Civil Service to be the #1 employer for Muslims in the UK Permanent secretaries, diversity leads, HR, policy makers and line managers have a part to play The CSIS is here to help

12 Nazir Afzal OBE Director, CPS London West; Service champion for advocacy; Higher Court Advocate. Foremost criminal justice practitioner Honour Crimes: organised CPS/Police conference on the subject in 2004 and given over 200 interviews in mainstream and S. Asian media. Involved with: National Muslim Safety Forum (CPS representative) Commission on British Muslims (Commissioner) Centre for Muslim Affairs (founding trustee). One of Muslim Power 100 and Asian Power 100. Named CPS Public Servant of the year (2007) and awarded Daily Mirror “People’s award” voted for by Mirror readers Honoured with an OBE in 2005 New Year’s Honours List.

13 Nazir Afzal OBE The personal journey Gaining confidence
Challenging myself Importance of networks What you can do

14 About the CSIS The Civil Service Islamic Society was founded in 2005 with a remit to represent Muslims in the workplace and to policymakers Championed by Sir Gus O’Donnell Almost 200 members in 30 departments/agencies Run a series of events, including “Question the Misconception” with Sh. Ibrahim Mogra We have a quarterly newsletter and a website ( with an address dedicated to answering your queries Question the Misconception afforded colleagues an opportunity to gain a closer understanding of mainstream Islam by questioning a qualified Islamic scholar – shaykh Ibrahim Mogra; it was a chance to learn how badly the religion is misrepresented by a minority of Muslims occupying news media

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