Baroness Falkner named new EHRC chair

Baroness Falkner, the new chair of the EHRC Carsten Koall/EPA/Shutterstock

A new chairperson and four new commissioners have been appointed at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK’s equality and discrimination watchdog.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, a member of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee, has been named the new chair of the commission by Liz Truss, minister for women and equalities. She replaces David Isaac, who stepped down earlier this year.

The EHRC is responsible for enforcing the gender pay gap reporting regulations among other equality laws, and recently undertook an investigation into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Baroness Falkner’s experience and commitment to equality means she’s an excellent candidate to take forward the important work of the EHRC” – Liz Truss, minister for women and equalities

Baroness Falkner previously held the role of chairperson of the EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee in the House of Lords. Prior to that, she worked for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons and party headquarters as its director of international affairs and policy, as well as roles at the Commonwealth Secretariat and as chief executive of Student Partnerships Worldwide.

Truss said: “Baroness Falkner’s experience and commitment to equality means she’s an excellent candidate to take forward the important work of the EHRC.

“I look forward to working with her as we seek to deliver the government’s levelling up agenda, making sure that all corners of the country have equal access to opportunity.”

Four new commissioners have also recently been appointed to the EHRC board. Jessica Butcher, David Goodhart and Su-Mei Thompson have all begun four-year appointments. The former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Lord Ribeiro, has also been appointed to the board for one year, to help ensure the EHRC has medical and public health expertise during the coronavirus pandemic.

Technology entrepreneur Jessica Butcher was the co-founding CMO of augmented reality firm Blippar from 2011-2015. She is a mentor, public speaker and writer on subjects including women in technology, work-life balance and humane technology.

David Goodhart is journalist, writer and researcher and has been involved with issues relating to equality and discrimination for 20 years. He is currently head of the Demography unit at the Policy Exchange think tank and has contributed to policy debates and written books about race and immigration.

Su-Mei Thompson is CEO of Media Trust, a non-profit organisation which aims to help the media become more representative. She was previously CEO of The Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong. She started her career as a corporate lawyer at Linklaters and has held senior management positions at The Walt Disney Company, the Financial Times and Christie’s.

Lord Ribero has been on the council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England since 1998 and served as President from 2005-2008. From 2012-2019, he was chair of the Department of Health’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel, advising the health secretary on changes to local health services in England.

The EHRC said the new commissioners were appointed following a formal scrutiny process.

This week it was revealed by the Guardian that EHRC board member Alasdair Henderson, who led the Labour antisemitism inquiry, ‘liked’ or retweeted social media posts criticising Black Lives Matter protesters, describing the words misogynist and homophobe as “highly ideological propaganda terms”, and a tweet denouncing “offence-taking zealots” who accused philosopher and writer Roger Scruton of antisemitism, Islamophobia and homophobia.

The EHRC told the newspaper that it would look into Henderson’s use of social media, while Henderson declined to comment.

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