Nowadays most people ‘get’ the importance of improving diversity. That’s especially true on the gender front. While there’s still a long way to go before women are as well represented in the workplace as men, there have been big strides forward in the last few years.
Race is another matter. For one reason or another it remains the case that ethnic minorities are woefully unrepresented in British businesses, both in the boardroom and the workforce as a whole.
In the hope of emulating its success in boosting gender diversity, the government is finally stepping up the pressure. Last year it backed two big reviews on race in the workplace – one by ex-Mitie boss Ruby Mcgregor-Smith and another by Anglo American chairman Sir John Parker, the latter focused specifically on representation in the boardroom. Neither painted a very positive picture, as you’ll see in the stats below.
This week Margot James, the business minister, wrote to the chief execs of every FTSE 350 company urging them to take action and that ‘genuine and lasting change must come from within the business community.’ The government clearly doesn’t want to interfere directly in the hiring processes of businesses but it is right to turn up the pressure. Here are six reasons why:
The proportion of BAME employees have experienced or witnessed racial harassment from managers in the last five years, according to a 2015 YouGov survey for Business in the Community. People who don’t feel respected by their boss are less likely to progress up the ladder.
The current number of black and minority ethnic CEOs of FTSE 100 companies. They are Diageo’s Ivan Menezes, RB’s Rakesh Kapoor, Carnival’s Arnold Donald and Hikma’s Said Darwazah. Around 13% of the UK’s population is non-white.
The employment rate of ethnic minority workers, according to the McGregor-Smith review. That’s compared with a rate of 75.6% for white workers.
The proportion of FTSE 100 boards with no non-white directors, according to the Parker report. What’s more just seven FTSE companies account for 40% of all non-white directors.
The number of non-white women who have ever been CEO of a FTSE 100 business. Inequality cuts across multiple characteristics. 5.6% of England’s population are BAME women.
The potential boost to the economy should employers get race equality ‘right’, according to the department for business. These figures are notoriously imprecise (the BEIS methodology lists 10 caveats), but it’s clear to see that if the employment rate for BAME workers rise as high as it is for whites, the economy would be in a better state.
Most forms of inequality are complex in their causes and therefore not easy to solve. But if businesses don’t start showing more progress, they could soon find the government leaning on them with more than just a letter.