University of Birmingham leads research for WMCA Leadership Commission Report

Andy Street speaking at the launch event

University of Birmingham research in leadership and superdiversity has made a significant contribution to the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) Leadership Commission Report 2018, launched by Andy Street CBE, the Mayor of the West Midlands and presented at a city centre event on Thursday 14 June. 


The Commission’s report – Leaders Like You – focuses on the experiences of black and ethnic minority communities, women, the LGBT community, disabled people and lower social economic groups, such as white working class boys.

The University research demonstrates that the proportion of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the West Midlands workforce is significantly lower than the local working age population. Access to work is hindered by a lack of positive role models, an understanding of cultural differences and a backdrop of institutional and societal prejudice. Disabled people and sexual minorities were also under-represented, with women faring poorly in the police and fire service.

Launch event

To mark the launch of the report, the University hosted an event on Thursday to share innovative practices amongst academics, policy makers, professionals and entrepreneurs and look at transforming leadership practice to ensure that the diversity of local leaders better reflects the diversity of people across the West Midlands. The event gave young people an opportunity to speak out about the future of inclusive leadership through panel-focused sessions.

The event also marked the launch of a new collaborative research project between the University of Birmingham, Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and the WMCA.

On the research, Professor Kiran Trehan said: “The exciting part of leading this new agenda on leadership is the commitment from a range of sectors and businesses to work across institutional boundaries to create an inclusive culture as well as behavioural change. We’ll be doing this through diverse peer learning which will carry across public/private/third sector, social enterprises and education, making  responsible leadership everyone’s business.”

Professor Jenny Phillimore said: “Our report shows that, to some extent, the workforce of the West Midlands reflects the population, but much more work is needed to increase diversity in leadership. We hope that our recommendations will provide a catalyst for change”

The Mayor said: “The diversity of our region is one of our greatest assets but this lack of representation at leadership level in organisations can lead to a sense of alienation amongst certain groups and a feeling that it is not possible to get to the top.

Greater diversity in leadership can bring fresh talent and alternative ways of looking at an increasingly globalised world and that can generate greater prosperity and less marginalisation and disaffection amongst excluded groups.”

The report, commended by Prime Minister, Teresa May, identifies new and compelling evidence and makes a number of recommendations to address the leadership diversity gap. Kiran Trehan, Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, and Jenny Phillimore, Professor of Migration and Superdiversity, both from the University’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS), with contributions from Dr Jane Glover and Yanan Zhang, led on the collection of evidence and the write up of the report. This work was done in conjunction with the Universities of Warwick, Wolverhampton and Coventry and Birmingham City University.

Below: Rosie Ginday of Miss Macaroon (left) and Professor Kiran Trehan of the University of Birmingham (right).

Leadership event

Find out more

Read the Commission's report, Leaders Like You