EFFORTS to ensure that the Queen’s Birthday Honours remain relevant to Britain’s increasingly diverse society has seen a rising number of women and ethnic minorities included in the latest accolades unveiled late last night.
A total of 1,163 people have been recognised by the Queen for their achievements and, for the second time in the honours history, female recipients narrowly outnumber men.
But women are they still struggled to pick up the top awards, and despite the near equal split only eight women were given the highest honour of becoming a dame, compared to 29 men who were awarded a knighthood.
Laura Bates, 28, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, who is named as a recipient of a British Empire Medal, said the huge divide at the top of the list was reflective of wider society but she was encouraged to see so many women make the overall list.
Speaking of the lack of new dames, Miss Bates said: “I think it’s probably broadly representative of the problem that we see across different areas of society, you see the same thing for example in business where you’ll often see women appointed to non-executive roles but it doesn’t necessarily mean the balance is being addressed at the very top. This is a massive problem across society, but obviously I would like to see the (Honours List) balance redressed at the top, it’s important.”
The Queen’s Birthday Honours have once again been dogged by leaks after key names were handed to the press ahead of the official announcement yesterday.
Recently appointed Sir Jonathan Stephens, the chairman of the Honours Committee, admitted he was “very disappointed” to see confidential news of Lenny Henry’s knighthood and Benedict Cumberbatch’s CBE leaving the Cabinet Office and reaching the newspapers over the past few days.
It comes despite the department launching an inquiry into leaks from the New Year Honours, after gongs for actors Joan Collins, James Corden and Sheridan Smith were widely trailed. And rugby player Jonny Wilkinson was embarrassed after reports said he was set to receive a knighthood, before it emerged that he was not included. This year, however, he has been awarded a CBE.
Sir Jonathan confirmed the committee had tightened security since the announcements six months ago, but would have to look again at its procedures to restrict access to the list, adding: “It’s very disappointing, it creates uncertainty. It’s disappointing in particular for the recipients who do treat it confidentially.”
Seven per cent of those honoured come from ethnic minority communities, a small rise on recent lists, while six per cent consider themselves to have a disability. Dr William Frankland, a pioneer in allergy research who first introduced the study to the UK, is the oldest person on the list to receive an MBE at 103, while Natasha Lambert, who has athetoid cerebral palsy is the youngest at 17, receiving a BEM for her work in fundraising.