From behind the Telegraph paywall. You couldn’t make it up!
RAF told to ‘stop choosing useless white male pilots’, leak reveals
Leaked email emerges after claims service had been put under ‘intolerable pressure’ to hit diversity targets
By Danielle Sheridan, Defence Editor 31 May 2023 • 1:16pm
The RAF instructed staff to stop choosing “useless white male pilots” for training courses in a leaked email seen by The Telegraph.
In an email dated Jan 19, 2021, Squadron Leader Andrew Harwin, who worked in the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre, discussed the boarding process where candidates are chosen to pursue certain training courses. He wrote: “I noted that the boards have recently been predominantly white male heavy.
“If we don’t have enough BAME and female to board then we need to make the decision to pause boarding and seek more BAME and female from the RAF.
“I don’t really need to see loads of useless white male pilots, let’s get as focused as possible, I am more than happy to reduce boarding if needed to have a balanced BAME/female/male board.”
An RAF source told The Telegraph that the “email clearly demonstrates the endemic culture that was created by the senior leadership to chase ridiculous diversity statistics that were patently unachievable”.
“This culture extended to issuing orders that were illegal,” they said.
The RAF source added that the selection process stunted the career progression of white men.
“If the selection board didn’t have any ethnic minorities and women, they were cancelling those boards, which meant the white males who were in the system and were going for the Air Force, were held up effectively because you’re pausing them,” they said.
“If I’m due to be on a board tomorrow, but because I’m white male, and there’s no females and ethnic minorities and they cancel my board, then they are delaying me in the process.”
The source added: “When they do come into the system, they are arriving into the Air Force later. Their commencement of paid employment is being delayed because they’re white males.”
It comes after Group Captain Lizzy Nicholl, who took over the recruitment department at RAF Cranwell in 2021, quit over claims the service had paused the recruitment of white men to hit diversity targets.
Earlier this year it was revealed in a defence select committee that Gp Capt Nicholl had accused the RAF of discriminating against 160 white men in its effort to meet the targets.
‘Slap in the face’
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the outgoing head of the RAF, called Gp Capt Nicholl’s resignation a “regrettable” outcome.
“One of the mistakes we made was that those aspirational goals filtered down into people’s personal objectives in-year which they found almost impossible to meet,” he said.
“That put intolerable pressure on them and I’ve apologised to the recruiting and selection organisation.”
He added: “We were doing all we could to tackle this intractable problem, which is the lack of diversity in our service.”
However, RAF sources said Sir Mike’s response was a “slap in the face” for the former group captain, who had seemingly lost her job after blowing the whistle on unlawful practices.
They said: “Everything we are told in the RAF is about doing the right thing, but nobody in the organisation has been held accountable.”
While in charge of the RAF, Sir Mike committed to having 40 per cent women and 20 per cent of personnel from ethnic minorities by 2030.
However, of the 1,500 pilots in the RAF at the end of last year, only 30 were women and around 10 were from ethnic minorities.
Less than two per cent of the 8,500 engineers were from ethnic minorities and six per cent were women, while only three per cent of the RAF as a whole came from an ethnic minority.
An RAF spokesman said: “The Royal Air Force will not shy away from the challenges we face building a service that attracts and recruits talent from every part of the UK workforce. We will continue doing everything we can to increase our recruiting intake from under-represented groups within the provisions of the law.
“All individuals joining the Royal Air Force were and are selected on merit and any individuals that were advanced to their training courses had already passed the selection process. There was no compromise of entry standards and no impact on the front line or operational effectiveness.”