Melanie Dawes named civil service diversity and inclusion champion

DfE's Jonathan Slater takes over LGBTI brief after departure of Dame Sue Owen

Photo: Paul Heartfield

Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has been named the government’s diversity and inclusions champion.

Dawes, who became chair of the Civil Service People Board in 2016, has taken up the mantle as the overall D&I champion from former Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport perm sec Dame Sue Owen, who retired last month.

And as Dawes moves to head up the D&I champion group, her previous role as gender champion has been taken on by Antonia Romeo, perm sec at the Department for International Trade.


Jonathan Slater, perm sec at the Department for Education, will meanwhile take on Owen’s secondary role as LGBTI – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex – champion.

Announcing the move on Twitter, Dawes said was “very pleased” to succeed Owen, adding that the civil service had “big ambitions to be the most inclusive employer” in the UK.

As LGBTI champion, Owen led a cross-Whitehall review last year of the way the civil service handles harassment, bullying and misconduct allegations. The review found staff wanted to see more evidence of managers acting to enforce “zero tolerance” policies and better support for workers thinking about airing grievances - ambitions Owen said the civil service would strive to achieve.

Romeo said he was “thrilled” to be leading work across the civil service and the wider public sector, as well as with business, on pursuing gender equality.

“Much done, much more to do, and I can’t wait to crack on with the team,” she wrote.

The new champions join existing leaders in the civil service who lead efforts to make the civil service more diverse and inclusive: Sir Richard Heaton at the Ministry of Justice as race champion; Bernadette Kelly at the Department for Transport as social Mobility Champion; Sir Philip Rutnam at the Home Office as disability champion; Clare Moriarty at the Department for Exiting the European Union as faith and belief Champion; and Jonathan Jones at the Government Legal Department as health and wellbeing champion.

Together, the champions will help to judge this year’s Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Awards, which are currently accepting nominations.

In a blog post announcing the changes, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said both the awards and the champions would help to ensure the civil service puts these values into practice, despite the challenges of existing workplace cultures or “competing pressures as our deadlines and priorities change”.

“People both inside and outside the civil service must know that inclusion is the hallmark of how we do business; that behaviours that secure the best from everyone are championed, and those that exclude are challenged and changed,” he said.

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