Race to improve diversity bearing fruit

UK plc is getting better at attracting ethnic minority candidates - but there's a long way to go.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The latest benchmarking data on race diversity practices suggests that British companies continue to raise their game. According to pressure group Business in the Community, firms are getting better at tracking the ethnicity of job applicants, trumpeting their commitment to diversity and getting involved in their communities. That’s good news for those who were worried that diversity commitments might fly straight out of the window in the fight for survival necessitated by the recession (along with various other high-minded principles). But with ethnic minorities still noticeably under-represented at senior levels, we clearly haven’t cracked it yet…

The report, produced as part of BITC’s Race for Opportunity campaign, is based on a benchmark index of 79 big companies, who between them employ about 1.5m people. And there is clear evidence of progress. Over 90% now monitor the ethnicity of all their candidates, and instruct any recruitment agencies operating on their behalf to do the same. A similar proportion is vocal about its commitment to diversity with customers and their suppliers, and works to ensure that ethnic minorities benefit from their community involvement activities. Positive signs all.

Top of the class in the private sector were BT, Pearson and RBS (the first time that’s over-achieved in a while), while the MOD, the artist formerly known as BERR, and the Home Office came up trumps in the public sector. But the RfO report isn’t just about patting firms on the back. It’s also about identifying examples of best practice in every relationship a business has – with its people, with its customers, with its local community and with its suppliers – in the hope that others will copy them. Suggestions include communicating your commitment to diversity, finding new ways to engage with ethnic minorities, targeting specific groups and making every aspect of your diversity efforts transparent.

Of course, all the participants in this study volunteer to take part, so the survey sample is de facto self-selecting – we can’t necessarily extrapolate across UK plc as a whole. However, the development of best practice models is surely the best way to raise standards across the board. And with the new Equality Bill increasing the legislative pressure on firms who fail to shape up, it definitely looks as though the trends are going in the right direction.

On the other hand, with just 4.3% of board-level employees coming from ethnic minorities (despite accounting for 8.5% of the workforce), we shouldn’t underestimate just how much work is still to be done...


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Race to improve diversity bearing fruit

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