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T2P30 – Breaking Barriers

Monday Motivation! Tick tock, tick tock, not TikTok, 2021 is winding down rapidly, have you got some last minute resolutions that you can still achieve? I’ve just had a look at mine and whilst I’ve gotten through a few, although it’s fair to say that I’ve given myself a ‘head start’ on my 2022 resolutions. The main topic in the news this week has been the recurring one, you guessed it COVID. The Omicron variant is transmitting everywhere and I’m sure we all know if not 1 or 2 people with it at this time. It’s been disruptive, cancelling a lot of Christmas parties, and in sport we’re seeing outbreaks preventing matches. In UK football Tottenham have been impacted and in USA, Basketball games have begun to be cancelled following an outbreak in Chicago. Speaking of breaks, today’s topic is on breaking barriers, last week I mentioned Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal. His elevation to CEO is an example of barrier breaking for people of colour

Breaking barriers to me is to have gone beyond obstacles that have prevented access or progression. Parag is not the first CEO of colour in Silicon Valley, nor will he be the last! The continued increase representation at that level breaks barriers for people of colour. Having observed that, it’s worth noting that Parag is an Asian man and I’m a black man, he and I don’t face identical barriers to progression. Parag’s journey is admirable, and I’m pleased for him, however his journey is not as applicable to me as it is to specifically Indian or more widely Asian counterparts. The number of black CEOs is still in short supply in Silicon Valley and beyond. This for me is where we can see a shortcoming of using the term BAME in some situations, the BAME representation grew in Silicon Valley with his ascension but if we drill down, the B in BAME representation didn’t. The term BAME can be too broad, the A in BAME is Asian, that in itself is hugely diverse, if we just consider 2 countries within it, China and India, people who are from there will have differing experiences. So, whilst the term BAME has it’s pros as well, when solutions are offered to help improve BAME representation, they can fail to offer the appropriately considered or tailored solutions.

Looking closer to domestic shores the Civil Service released a paper on social mobility this year, Navigating the Labyrinth. This was an insightful report delving into what the barriers have been to people from low socio-economic backgrounds. Some barriers uncovered at a high level:

  • Location, London has the most top grade posts available (not everyone has the facilities to move to London ~article on Londoners migrating from London to commuter cities

  • Role type, working class backgrounds are notably over-represented in operational delivery roles (40%) whereas those from more advantaged backgrounds are significantly over-represented in policy roles (70%)

  • Not being exposed to an accelerator role: Private office/ leading role in national crisis/ working within a central department (Cabinet Office/HM Treasury)

  • Imposter Syndrome, staff feeling unable to bring their whole selves to work (e.g style of speaking in the workplace)

Do you recognise any of the above barriers in your career/workplace?

The Civil Service is a diverse workforce, and diversity of staff offers diversity of thought, however that diversity in the workforce declines as the responsibilities increase, as shown in the Civil Service statistics:

  • 100 male Director Generals and 30 male perm secretaries – 0 BAME

  • 7,290 Senior Civil Servants (men & women) - 8.71% BAME

  • 62,430 Grade 6 & 7 (men & women) - 10.04% BAME

For international men’s day the Civil Service Race forum produced a video where they sat with several experienced civil servants. Where they spoke through their experiences within the Civil Service, explaining some challenges they faced, which included that difficulty in relating to colleagues. They also shared some key tips on how they broke through barriers in the workplace, these tips included:

  • Mentorship, a mentor can provide you with great insights and the blueprint to progress

  • Build a strong support structure

  • Join a development programme and networks

  • Talk with the hiring managers (there contact details are on the job posting for a reason!

  • Try out new roles/departments, look for the ones that will stretch you

I have to say as far as Mondays go, this has really been a Mondaaay, so I hope this can act as motivation for your week. Whilst I was specifically exploring Civil Service statistics and barriers, some of these barriers are also present in the private sector. The tips offered in the video can offer guidance on how to deal with barriers in the workplace, so I highly recommend watching it. It was made for international men’s day but the advice is not gender restricted. January 2022 offers time to take one or two of those tips and see if they can be helpful tools in breaking barriers in your career or life obstacles. Whilst it isn’t fair that we have to deal with some of these obstacles, and we did not put them there ourselves, it is up to us to break down these barriers if we want to progress

Like, Share, Subscribe, Return, and let me know if you’ve got any feedback, that’s always welcome!


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