Appointment of the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Contents

Appendix 6: Mr Isaac’s supporting statement

Supporting statement for application for Chair of EHRC

I believe I have the necessary skills and experience to act as Chair of the EHRC. In response to your requirements I would identify the following relevant skills:

1. Commitment to equality

As a person whose life has been transformed by equality legislation and as a lawyer, I am hugely committed to equality and human rights. In the LGBT context, I was directly involved in devising and delivering legal equality in my role as Chair of Stonewall. I am now involved in promoting other equality strands in the legal profession, the City of London and in my own work place - especially gender, race and social mobility. I do this by acting as a role model, senior influencer and advocate. I also promote international LGBT legal equality as a trustee of the Human Dignity Trust where I am involved in both strategy and governance as well as discussions with the other organisations e.g. FCO (eg briefing Heads of Government for CHOGM). As a lawyer, I believe in the importance of the law as a tool to protect and advance equality. I see the role of the EHRC as vital in this process.

2. A strong and strategic leader

Both as a senior lawyer in the City of London and as a prominent chair and trustee of a number of complex and high profile NGOs and NDPBs, I act as a strong and strategic leader by setting clear and ambitious direction. Delivering these objectives requires close executive and board cooperation, the support of staff and real direction from the Chair. Where possible, I believe in the importance of building alliances with partner organisations although I accept that where this cannot easily be achieved strong leadership will sometimes demand that tough decisions must be taken. I have been well regarded in all of my chairing roles and have been praised for my ambassadorial skills. My leadership style is described as “bold, innovative and collaborative - but firm”. This would also be my approach to working with the CEO.

3. Enhancing the reputation of the EHRC

I have worked in the equalities sector for over twenty five years. During this time, I witnessed the creation of the EHRC, supported its objectives and celebrated its successes. I am, however, aware of its perceived shortfalls. I do believe that the EHRC plays an important role in the UK but (as recognised in its current 2016-19 strategy) the organisation needs to re-focus its mission by concentrating on strategic interventions, regulatory activities and the promotion of best practice. This will necessitate some external re-positioning as well as internal reform - especially in relation to reducing bureaucracy and costs. With an increasingly diverse population, a climate of spending cuts, anxiety about global security and migration and a possible new British Bill of Human Rights, strong leadership is essential to protect and further advance equality and human rights. Your agenda for improved capability is already under way but I believe there is still work to be done to achieve maximum impact for the EHRC. Delivering this agenda will undoubtedly require strong decision-making, including in relation to improved financial controls and, perhaps, reducing staff numbers. My involvement in the transformation of Stonewall, The Diana Fund, the Big Lottery and my work with the Cabinet Office does, I believe, give me the relevant skills to oversee the delivery of these objectives.

Your strategy also requires the work of the EHRC to be further embedded in the public sector but also places emphasis on engagement with business. I understand the public sector as a result of many years of working with central Government, but from my work in the City and involvement in the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, I also bring a track record of promoting the business case for diversity and of creating close partnerships with corporates.

4. Judgment, integrity, resilience in the face of challenge

As a well respected senior lawyer, I have a track record of advising on complex legal, commercial and politically sensitive transactions. All of these matters require sound judgment, strong nerve, integrity and resilience. As I regularly act in complex adversarial matters I am also used to challenge and robust argument.

These skills are also important in my NGO roles - especially those that involved communications with parliamentarians and opponents of equality in the early days of working to introduce LGBT legal reform. At that time we faced huge opposition but a combination of successful legal challenges, the advancement of sound argument and the ability to build coalitions delivered successful outcomes. I would endeavour to approach the EHRC bearing in mind these lessons learned.

6. Experience of running an effective board

I am a seasoned chair of NGOs, legal meetings and negotiations and have a record of running highly effective boards. Feedback for my chairing skills is always very positive, including in situations where I have been required to review governance to improve board efficacy. In a number of cases this has included the removal of some board members - which I have managed with delicacy. As a result of this experience, I lecture (eg to the Association of Chairs) on effective chairing. My style in board meetings is open and inclusive - but firm.

I believe that the EHRC is at an important point in its history and am confident that my skills and experience would be helpful to secure its future. I would also relish the challenge.

David Isaac, November 2015

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

6 May 2016