Diversity and inclusion

The People Plan for the Government Statistical Service (GSS) aims to ensure that the Government Statistician Group (GSG) is diverse and inclusive with a membership that reflects society in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and socio-economic background.

The GSS Careers Team are working to promote a culture that attracts, develops, retains and engages a diverse population across the profession.

Working group

Following analysis of the 2019 Analysis Function Diversity and Inclusion Survey (D&I Survey), we set up a GSS Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, made up of volunteers from across the GSS.

The group are working on GSS specific survey analysis to help drive their recommendations. They are also developing communications and a GSS Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan which aligns to the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Practice Expectations 2020 to 2021.

The GSS People Committee have actioned survey recommendations made in June 2020. The analysis of the 2020 D&I Survey will make further recommendations to be rolled out in 2021.

The group will share best practice across the GSS and the wider Analysis Function.  Lived experiences will be shared through blog posts.

Reverse Mentoring Scheme

As part of our commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive Government Statistician Group (GSG) we’ve launched a Reverse Mentoring Scheme where Senior Civil Servants (SCS) take on the unfamiliar role of being mentored by less senior colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

This type of mentoring has been done elsewhere in Whitehall – including by John Manzoni, the ex-chief executive of the Civil Service. It has proven to be beneficial for the mentee, the mentor and the wider civil service.

The GSG scheme has been developed by the GSS Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Working Group, working in partnership with the GSS People Committee and wider Analysis Function.

Aims and objectives

The D&I Reverse Mentoring Scheme provides:

  • the opportunity for more junior colleagues from diverse backgrounds to mentor and engage with senior leaders within the profession
  • an open and honest environment to spark discussions around creating and delivering inclusive work practices, and to foster a joint learning experience for both parties
  • a great opportunity for junior staff to interact with a senior colleague and help their leaders to develop a greater depth of understanding and insight around our people and our business, leading to a more inclusive profession
  • an opportunity for senior statisticians to listen and understand the barriers as perceived by those in underrepresented groups

Common questions

As mentors: the scheme is open to any member of the GSG with any characteristic protected under the Equality Act 2010 and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

As mentees: All SCS members of the GSG.

It provides an opportunity for mentors to:

  • engage with senior leaders across the GSG and help them to develop their insight into diversity issues
  • promote awareness and greater understanding of their different cultures and attributes amongst GSG senior leaders
  • help to shape the way the profession addresses diversity and inclusion issues
  • learn from one of our senior leaders; what they are focused on and how they are working to improve the culture of their departments and the profession

It provides an opportunity for mentees to:

  • engage a diverse range of staff who want to support senior leaders
  • access honest staff feedback on their approach to diversity and inclusion
  • improve the profession’s capability to communicate with and develop diverse talent
  • increase knowledge of employees’ different cultures, barriers and attributes which can lead to greater insight and more effective decision-making

  • participation in the D&I Reverse Mentoring scheme enables participants to raise awareness of diversity issues with senior leaders across the profession
  • enabling leaders to be confident, inspirational and empowering to create a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key element of the ‘Effective Leaders’ strand of GSS People Plan (participating in D&I Reverse Mentoring would be a practical step to achieve this aim)
  • creating an inclusive culture where difference is valued, diversity is harnessed, and everyone has equal opportunity to achieve their potential is critical (D&I Reverse Mentoring is an important element of making the GSG a great place to work as it aims to help create a more inclusive culture within the profession)

Reverse mentoring awareness training sessions will be held online in late October and early November 2020. These sessions will introduce potential mentors to reverse mentoring and the reasons why a reverse mentoring scheme is important for individuals and the department.

It will also give them an opportunity to ask questions of current mentors/mentees, who shared their experiences of the scheme. These will also provide potential mentors with advice on how to be an effective reverse mentor and the rules of reverse mentoring.

Both mentors and mentees will be asked to sign a reverse mentoring agreement before beginning their mentoring journey. This will establish the agreed ground rules and confidentiality between mentoring pairs.

Working with Heads of Profession

In June 2019 Iain Bell, (Deputy National Statistician) hosted a diversity and inclusion panel where attendees shared lived experiences with GSS Heads of Profession (HoPs). The Diversity and Inclusion Working Group plan to hold a similar event, open to a wider audience in 2021.


In March 2020 the GSS Careers Team led a session supporting the Civil Service Year of Inclusion. As part of this session, HoPs and other Senior Civil Servants at the session were asked to make diversity and inclusion pledges.

Four Heads of Profession holding up placards stating their diversity and inclusion pledges

Julie Stanborough (Deputy Director of the Best Practice and Impact division) pledged to practise active listening.

David Blunt (Ministry of Justice and Chair of the People Committee) pledged that he would not only invite people to the party, but also ask them to dance.

Sandra Tudor pledged to promote diversity and inclusion within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and to mentor an individual from a BAME background.

Claire Griffiths (Public Health England) pledged to promote transparency by writing weeknotes so people know what she is doing.

Other HoPs at the session made personal pledges on greeting cards. These will sent back to them after six months to remind them of their personal commitments to diversity and inclusion.

Making the GSS more diverse and inclusive

Actions taken to make the GSS more inclusive and to attract a diverse mix of staff:

  • refreshed entry routes to the profession via level 4 data analyst apprenticeships
  • a level 6 trailblazer data science apprenticeship in England and Wales
  • removal of barriers to taking the technical test in apprenticeship recruitment
  • requests for recruitment management information and metrics to include diversity data
  • introduction of video interviewing to improve accessibility
  • continued work on our student pipeline which includes the Summer Diversity Internship Programme
  • greater collaboration across GSS teams to access more management information on diversity and inclusion
  • launched Reverse Mentoring Scheme
  • launched pilot of D&I Shadow Board for the GSS People Committee

Diversity and inclusion champions

The Careers Team are pleased to announce that there are now two GSS diversity and inclusion champions: Steph Howarth from Welsh Government and Jason Bradbury from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

Stephanie Howarth is the Welsh Government’s interim Chief Statistician. She joined the GSS in 2005 as a fast stream statistician and has worked in a number of statistical roles across south Wales in the Welsh Government, the United Kingdom Statistics Authority and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“I’m incredibly passionate about making the GSS a truly inclusive place to work where everyone can thrive. The statistics we produce are a window on the world – if the GSS better reflects the experiences of everyone so too will our statistics.”

Steph Howarth, GSS Diversity and Inclusion Champion

Next steps

We will evaluate the D&I Shadow Board pilot in February 2021 and then roll it out to volunteers from the GSG. We will encourage and assist other GSS decision making boards to set up D&I Shadow Boards.

The GSS Diversity and Inclusion Working Group are looking for new enthusiastic members to support the ongoing GSS diversity and inclusion initiatives.  If you would like to volunteer please email gss.careers@ons.gov.uk.

Staff across the GSS will continue to publish diversity and inclusion blog posts on the GSS website, use Twitter to advertise diversity and inclusion work and keep this web page up to date.

We will also share useful guidance to enhance understanding of diversity issues and barriers to progression.