Heritage should be for everyone
We at Historic England condemn racism in any form. We are committed to inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunity in all of our work - but we know that we, and the heritage sector, have a long way to go.
Our heritage and our built environment should be a source of knowledge and understanding for everyone. There continues to be a disproportionate weighting in our history books, at our historic sites and in our records, focusing predominantly on white male achievement. This bias must change.
England has a rich and complex history. Our buildings, monuments and places sometimes bring us face to face with parts of our history that are painful, or shameful by today's standards. We recognise that there are historic statues and memorials which have become symbols of injustice and a source of great pain for many people. Our sector has a long way to go to be able to tell hidden and uncomfortable stories and we are committed to playing a full part in driving forward the positive change that must happen.
We have been working on contested heritage for some time, including in our Immortalised season in 2018. We will continue to engage proactively, and to support conversations with guidance, research and advice to owners, local authorities, councils and communities. We will review the content of entries in the National Heritage List for England to ensure that it reflects the diverse origins of listed statues and memorials. We will expedite this work.
It is also important we acknowledge that, as a disproportionately white organisation in a disproportionately white sector, we can sympathise with but not fully understand the negative experiences of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues working in heritage. But we are committed to developing our understanding of this situation, to examine our behaviours and to challenge biases that prevent us from being truly inclusive. We will also continue to take steps to increase the representation of diverse voices, specifically those from Black people, in our workforce, on our Commission and on our advisory bodies.
We will work to ensure that Black lives, past and present, are fully recognised as part of our nation’s history, and our sector’s future.
We know that to oppose racism takes more than just a statement – it is about sustained long term change, and this takes time. This is a renewed dedication from us to listen, to support and to take positive action for diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity at Historic England, and in the heritage sector.
How we promote equality and diversity
Historic England is working hard to improve diversity both in its workforce and in every aspect of the work we do. Our activities to promote equality and diversity are reviewed annually by Executive Team and Commission.
- Work in partnership with external organisations, such as disability advocacy groups, Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage organisations, and faith networks, to ensure that we involve and consult people on issues that affect them
- Make sure the stories we tell represent the diversity of this country. For example, we have produced digital resources on women's history, on disability history and crowd-sourced LGBTQ history and Black and Asian history projects
- Make sure our information is accessible to everyone
- Check our policies and activities are fair and inclusive through Equalities Impact Assessments. These are a simple set of procedures and guidelines and make sure we give full consideration to the impact of our work on people with different needs
- Are committed to minimising the gender pay gap and our approach to pay seeks to reward all staff fairly, regardless of gender
We’ve been working hard to improve the diversity of our workforce in relation to a range of characteristics, with a wide range of initiatives since 2012, including:
- Setting up a range of staff network groups to provide peer support and advice to us on how to be more inclusive
- Concealing names and other information to prevent bias when we are shortlisting who to interview
- Providing mandatory baseline training to staff on equality and diversity
- Providing training on unconscious bias
- Working with specialist partner outreach organisations and using inclusive selection techniques to achieve a much broader range of applicants for our apprenticeships (this has already led to an increasingly diverse pool of appointments).
- Our positive action training placements, which so far have targeted Black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates and undergraduates, but are now widening to people not at university. These are not paid employment, but we provide a bursary to ensure nobody is prevented from participating because of their financial circumstances.
Our work on unconscious bias and adjustments to our recruitment process to remove names and other information not relevant to the shortlisting process, has contributed to a steady and sustained upturn in the number of new recruits from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.
We still have a lot of work to do. Our forthcoming diversity, inclusion and equality strategy will help us to take steps to accelerate our progress.
Our strategy for inclusion, diversity and equality
The historic environment in England should be accessible and relevant to everyone who lives and visits here, whatever their socio-economic background, race, religion, sexuality, gender, disability, or health.
We know that currently we are not reaching large sections of the population and that our workforce is not diverse. Subsequently many of our work programmes and the ways in which we work are not yet inclusive.
This strategy is for Historic England. It is not intended as a strategy for the historic environment sector but does include actions which will help develop more diversity in the sector. We have considered carefully our starting point and what we feel can be achieved in 3 years. This strategy does not represent the totality of our ambition but sets out where we need to get to to enable further progress to be realised.
Full report and appendices: A Strategy for Inclusion,
Diversity and Equality
Gender Pay Gap Report
If you would like any of this information in alternative formats: please contact Customer Services on 0370 333 0607.