Foreign Office Sued for Racial Discrimination
Robert Verkaik Law Editor, The Independent (London, England)
The careers of women and ethnic minority civil servants working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are held back by a glass ceiling that is supported by an inherited culture of discrimination, it was alleged yesterday.
Manchula Kuganesan, a highly experienced accountant from London, told an employment tribunal that, for almost 11 years, she had been overlooked for promotion despite being more qualified than her white male colleagues.
She described the Foreign Office as being the most "conservative" of all government departments which still implemented discriminatory practices dating from a time when women who married were forced to resign.
In her witness statement to the court she said in all her time at the Foreign Office she had not found one role model. "I quickly appreciated that the FCO was the most conservative and traditional government department within which I had worked. It does not deal with change well and many of its practices are outmoded."
She said that she had agreed with the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who launched a "web crusade" to try to change the "stuffy image of the Foreign Office" which he said appeared "forbidding".
Mrs Kuganesan, who is suing for race and sex discrimination, told the tribunal: "It has not embraced diversity or equal opportunities and this appears to be borne out by monitoring data and statistical data, to the extent that it is kept or disclosed by the FCO. …