Interview: how NHS England and others are leading on diversity and inclusion

Morag Stuart is the Chief Programme Officer for NHS England's New Hospital Programme. Before working for NHS England, Morag worked for the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), BAE Systems and Thames Water.

We spoke with Morag to learn more about her continued work to enhance diversity and inclusion across major programmes at these organisations. 

Morag Q&A 377X250

Morag Stuart Chief Programme Officer, NHS England's New Hospital Programme

What does inclusivity in major programmes mean to you? 

Fundamentally, inclusivity is about the people that work on the programme ensuring fair representation on the client side, consultant side and supply side.

To drive real change in this space, everyone needs to recognise that a problem exists and believe in the benefits of having a fully integrated and diverse workforce.

Is there an industry or organisation that you believe is getting inclusivity right? 

I think you will struggle to find a UK organisation more inclusive than the National Health Service (NHS), with 1.5 million people in the workforce representing every corner of the population.

It was not until working here that I had the opportunity to work alongside other women on major programmes, but inclusivity goes beyond this alone. It is the energy and desire to change things which is so evident.

With such rich diversity, I work alongside chief nurses who have worked in the NHS all their lives, as well as architects and digital people, all of whom have come from different industries and have completely different life experiences.

This dynamic does great things for diversity and inclusion, as does the effort made each day to ensure everyone feels comfortable and included – to the extent where ‘everyday language’ is encouraged to avoid alienating acronyms and the like.

How have you fostered inclusivity across major programmes elsewhere in your career?

When I joined the ODA, I saw diversity and inclusion in action from start to finish. We recruited with this in mind on the client side and implemented a clear vision that we could weave into the procurement process. If you set out clear processes around diversity from the start in this way, it is much more straightforward.

The wider strategy was centred around five core categories: cost, quality, legacy, health and safety, and sustainability. Sustainability was split into two: small business engagement, and equality and diversity.

A reporting mechanism written into the contracts enabled us to see how people were performing in these areas, and we set up initiatives – such as an apprentice recruitment initiative, and a way of monitoring the makeup and diversity of the supplier’s executive board and workforce – to help us benchmark performance.

Elsewhere, at the MoD, I co-founded the Women in Defence Charter in Defence Equipment and Support – the MoD’s trading entity. I focused on gender because it felt wise to start by focusing on an issue that impacts 50 percent of the population.

Co-founding the Women in Defence Charter, we managed to get most of our supply chains, certainly our big suppliers, to report on the gender pay gap at their company, and the number of women on their executive board.

Today, the charter has 55 signatories, representing some really big companies supplying the MoD.

What facet of inclusivity do you feel needs more attention across major programmes?

In engineering, employers often say that they are unable to access enough female candidates. While true, with just 10 percent of engineering graduates being women, this has a tendency of becoming an excuse that everyone is expected to accept – rather than the employer pushing to hire that 10 percent and creating a pipeline. Employers often take the lazy route.

Another area that needs looking at is parental leave. We need to get to a point where it is the norm for men and women to take parental leave for the same amount of time. We also need to see more senior men take parental leave, and experience what it feels like when people are prejudicial to them on their return.

We talk about collaboration being the key to success. What changes need to be made across major programmes with regards to this? 

To change the norm – in this case, the environment, or the behaviour of an entire workforce – you have to be disruptive.

At ODA, we had ‘construction commitments’ in place, designed to change health and safety practices in the supply chain, which, at the time, were not consistent nor well managed.

These worked well because they created a simple criteria to benchmark against each year, and we required our suppliers to sign up to these construction commitments.

With clients making these a requirement, shareholders feel more obliged to fulfil their obligations. But for optimal effectiveness, these commitments should be contractually required until we reach the eutopia of true diversity. 

For further information contact:

Charlene Singh
Global Business Generation Lead, Infrastructure

t: +44 7939 981267