With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who they’d choose to turn on their town’s Christmas lights. The links on this list will go live as the articles are published in the run up to 2019.
What was your highlight of 2018? I hope this isn’t cheating, but I’ve got three highlights of 2018.
The first is gender pay gap reporting. This year, for the first time, all organisations with more than 250 staff have been legally required to report their gender pay gap. Although there is still lots of work to do to close the gap, 100% of the organisations complied. That means that over 10,000 organisations, covering at least half of the UK’s workforce, have now had a board level conversation about what they need to do to start improving their pay gap. This was a great team effort across GEO and government departments, with strong support from businesses, employers, politicians and the media. It was one of the biggest news stories in 2018, and I hope it drives a real change in gender equality.
The second was publishing our LGBT action plan in July. Last year, we conducted the world’s largest survey of LGBT people, with over 100,000 responses. This gave us a huge amount of information about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the UK, and we used the results to develop a plan which included significant actions to improve health, education and personal safety. Again, the GEO team worked across government to share evidence, build understanding and develop policy and actions. I’m really proud of them and of GEO’s work this year.
And the third is more personal – I had a baby at the end of July, and he is definitely a highlight!
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018? Making sure you keep driving positive progress, and creating space and encouragement for your teams, amidst some very vigorous media debate on all sorts of issues.
What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year? We need to keep making progress to close the gender pay gap and deliver on the LGBT action plan, but we also need to make sure that we challenge ourselves to stay at the forefront of equalities work internationally.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why? I would love Barack and Michelle Obama to come and turn on the Christmas lights in Brixton, so they can come and see the new mural of Michelle that celebrates her contribution to public life!