Is business losing the race battle?

A new study suggests ethnic minority groups are still under-represented in Britain's managerial ranks...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Racial inequality in the UK workforce is actually becoming even more pronounced, according to a study of labour market figures by corporate governance charity Business in the Community. Although one in 10 people in the UK is from an ethnic minority group, the same is true of less than 7% of managers. Admittedly this proportion is on the increase – up 50% since the turn of the millennium, in fact – but the problem is, it’s increasing at a slower rate than the ethnic minority population...

BITC has been studying Labour Force Surveys conducted by the Office for National Statistics between 2000 and 2007 – and the results make discouraging reading. Back in 2000, about 7% of the UK population came from an ethnic minority group, and 4.4% of managers. Seven years later, 10% of the population were from an ethnic minority group, and 6.8% of managers. This tells us two things: one, that these groups are still under-represented in the managerial ranks, and two, that this situation is getting worse rather than better. BITC reckons that by 2015, 15.2% of the population could be from ethnic minority groups but just 11.2% of managers – in other words, the gap (in percentage point terms at least) is going to keep growing unless something is done.

The figures also suggest that some industries are particularly behind the curve. Over half of all ethnic minority managers are in the public administration, education and health category (most of whom are in the public sector) or in the banking and finance category – the latter receiving particular praise for its recent efforts to promote diversity within its ranks. Given that the City doesn’t get praised for anything much these days, we felt duty bound to report someone saying something nice about these firms for once…

However, the problem isn’t necessarily that ethnic minority candidates are just being passed over for promotion; it’s more fundamental than that. Between 2000 and 2007, the proportion of the total workforce from an ethnic minority group inched up from 5.4% to 8.5% (compared to 10.3% in the general population). So this is more than just a management issue – any initiatives will also need to focus on getting more ethnic minority candidates into the workplace in the first place.

But it’s not all bad news. With Barack Obama about to take over the world’s most prominent management position, the issue is unlikely to fade into the background in the next few years...

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