How business failed on race

Women are slowly finding a place at the boardroom table but the talents of BAME staff, particularly those of African and African-Caribbean heritage, are still being overlooked.

by Lloyd Bradley

How many black board directors does your business have? For nearly half of the companies in the FTSE 100, the answer to that question is a succinct none. In fact, those 47 businesses have no BAME board representation whatsoever.

At this critical time in the history of UK plc, the only black British person at the helm of a FTSE 100 business is John Lewis’s chair Dame Sharon White. (Arnold Donald, the boss of publicly listed cruise company Carnival, is African American.) What makes this even more serious is that many companies seem to believe they’ve “solved” their diversity “problem” by focusing on hiring more women. 

Staff from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds, particularly those of African and African-Caribbean heritage, are too often stuck in junior management roles. By neglecting this pool of talent, companies are spurning opportunities for growth, narrowing their thinking and – according to the Race in the Workplace review by former Mitie Group CEO Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith – costing themselves around £24bn a year. With COVID-19 putting the very future of so many businesses in jeopardy, this waste of talent and fresh thinking is something we can ill afford.

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