Equal opportunities chief puts emphasis on practical action: Barrie Clement reports on the career of Kamlesh Bahl as she prepares to take up her new post

KAMLESH BAHL has experienced discrimination at first hand.

Ms Bahl, who takes over as chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission next Tuesday, applied for a job to 250 organisations in the late Eighties after a distinguished academic record reading law at Birmingham University. No one would take her.

She believes she may have been the subject of 'double discrimination' - her gender counted against her and so did her ethnic origin as a Ugandan Asian.

Ms Bahl, 36, eventually got one job offer and that was from the Greater London Council which at that time presumably saw her gender and her ethnic origin as a positive advantage.

Since then, however, Ms Bahl has moved out of the 'ghetto' and worked for the British Steel Corporation and Texaco specialising in commercial and employment law.

Yesterday the new commission chair was keeping her political cards close to her chest, but her approach is unlikely to be hardline feminist - her appointment had the Prime Minister's personal approval.

'There are going to be circumstances when the commission will agree with the Government; also there are going to be circumstances when it has a different view.'

She has gone on record as someone who does not believe that the woman's place is at home, but who wants to restore the status of women who choose to look after their children.

Ms Bahl, an activist in the Law Society - basically the solicitors' trade union - intends to bring a practical approach to the job.

'Equal opportunites is now on the agenda. We have the commitment of the Prime Minister and all political parties. Now we have to move on to translate the commitment into practical action.'

Her strategy will be to persuade employers to make the best of their workforce, 44 per cent of whom are women.

Ms Bahl, 'a believing Hindu', is married to Nitin Lakhani, a general practitioner whom she met at Birmingham.

She will work three days a week at the commission.

Her first task as head of the commission will be to review its approach and meet all the 'key decision makers'.

(Photograph omitted)