Jan 28 2015

Arthur Lewis – LSE’s first black academic

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Arthur Lewis was the first black academic at LSE. At a time when UK higher education is starting to think about the lack of black people in academia, Sue Donnelly looks back at Arthur Lewis’ life and hurdles at the time.

This post was originally published on the LSE History Blog.

Arthur Lewis

Arthur Lewis

23 January 2015 marks the centenary of the birth of the Nobel Prize winning economist, William Arthur Lewis (1915-1991) – whose appointment in 1938 to a one year teaching contract, later converted to a four year appointment, makes him LSE’s first black academic.

Lewis was born in St Lucia and left school at 14 after completing the curriculum, working as a clerk in the civil service. Lewis’s ambition was to be an engineer, but aware that neither the government nor white businesses would employ a black engineer he decided on a career in business and planned to study business administration.  In 1932 Lewis won a government scholarship to study in Britain and in 1933 arrived at LSE to study for the B.Commerce degree.

LSE’S B.Commerce degree started in 1919 and students studied economic theory and economic history alongside statistics, accounting, commercial law and elements of geography. The course was taught by LSE luminaries such as Lionel Robbins, Friedrich Hayek, John Hicks and Arnold Plant who was Professor of Commerce.  Plant, who had taught in South Africa, was interested in the economic impact of racial discrimination particularly on the labour market, and was supportive of Lewis throughout his time at LSE. In his Nobel Prize biography Lewis called his studies at LSE “marvellous intellectual feasts”. In 1938 Lewis obtained at first class degree and obtained a scholarship to begin a PhD. His thesis The Economics of Loyalty Contracts was completed in 1940.

Although academic life was successful Lewis later recalled that he was “subjected to all the usual disabilities – refusal of accommodation, denial of jobs for which he had been recommended, generalised discourtesy and the rest”. In 1937, despite his first class degree, he was rejected by the Colonial Services for a post as an administrator in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Ironically by 1941 he was undertaking research for the Colonial Office.

Lewis’s appointment to a temporary assistant lectureship in 1938 reflected this ambivalence. Although the decision to appoint Lewis was unanimous the LSE Director, Alexander Carr-Saunders felt the need to restrict his teaching and explain the appointment to the Court of Governors:

LSE students Grove Lodge, Cambridge

LSE students at Grove Lodge, Cambridge

“He would therefore not see students individually but in groups. The Appointments Committee is, as I said, quite unanimous but recognise that the appointment of a coloured man may possibly be open to some criticism. Normally, such appointments do not require the confirmation of the Governors but on this occasion I said that I should before taking any action submit the matter to you.”

This did not prevent Hayek describing Lewis as one “one of our best teachers”. During LSE’s evacuation to Cambridge during the Second World War as one of the few teachers not called up for civil or war service, Lewis undertook a heavy burden of teaching – particularly as his classes contained both LSE and Cambridge students. The 1942-1943 LSE Calendar records that Lewis was teaching transport economics, and business economics alongside an elements of economics course which included money, banking and international trade. In 1944 colonial economics was added to the list and in 1947 Lewis was appointed Reader in Colonial Economics.

Alongside this heavy teaching load Lewis was also working for the Colonial Office after being recommended by LSE as “the most suitable member of staff”  to undertake a report on the financing of mining and industrial development in the colonies. Some Aspects of the Flow of Capital into the British Colonies was published in 1942 and was followed by further reports and Lewis’ appointment as secretary to the newly formed Colonial Economic Advisory Committee (CEAC). Lewis’ desire to set economic research in the context of the wider needs of Britain’s colonies often conflicted with the Colonial Office’s narrow technocratic agenda and Lewis’s 1944 resignation letter described his time as secretary as “largely a waste of time” – but it helped in defining his views on development economics.

In 1948 Lewis joined Manchester University as a full professor, leaving in 1957 to advise the government of newly independent Ghana. He was Principal of University College of the West Indies becoming the first Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. He was knighted in 1963 and from 1963-1983 held a professorship at Princeton University. He also headed up the Caribbean Development Bank.

In 1979 Sir Arthur Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics for “pioneering research into economic development research with particular consideration of the problems of developing countries”. He died in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1991.

Sue Donnelly is the Archivist at LSE.

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Dec 3 2014

The Audacity of Race: Dismantling the norms of the professional landscape at LSE

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Monday 8 December, 12.30 – 2.00 pm

Race inequality in UK universities has been well-documented in a succession of studies that span two decades. An in-depth report in 2011 by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) on the experience of BME staff in the HE sector acknowledges very little progress has been made despite robust legislation and expressions of commitment to race equality across the sector.

The first of this three part conversation series explores the lived experience of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) academic and professional services staff, and how institutional policy and practice may affect BME staff differently. The session will also examine what this means in practical terms for the School community at large.

This session will be introduced by the Provost, Stuart Corbridge, and led by Carolyn Solomon-Pryce, Equality and Diversity Manager and Dr. Ohemaa Nkansa-Dwamena, Student Counsellor.There will be a panel of speakers with expertise in this field chosen from across the sector.

A sandwich lunch will be provided prior to a prompt start at 12.30 pm.If you’re interested in attending please book a place asap via the training portal: /training-system/userBooking/course/7439020or send an e-mail to Equality.And.Diversity@lse.ac.uk, as spaces are limited. Please note that the invitation to this event is being extended to external audiences as well.

Attendees wishing to ask questions are encouraged to send them to Equality.And.Diversity@lse.ac.uk ahead of the session, if possible, as this may also be helpful for the panel of speakers in facilitating the discussion during the session.

There is a third session from this year’s series of E&D events, following earlier sessions on the age diverse workforce, as well as misogyny and homophobia. We’ll be very pleased to have you or your colleagues join us for this interesting and lively series of lunchtime meetings.

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Nov 14 2014

New equality and diversity sessions this term!

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Want to learn more about equality and diversity and what it means in the workplace? There’s a range of equality and diversity sessions coming up for LSE staff in the next few weeks – make sure you book your place!

Equality and Diversity Awareness
Monday 24 November, 10am

The aim of this three hour workshop is to provide staff with an overview of the key equality and diversity issues, so they are able to recognise discriminatory practices within the workplace and are better equipped to promote good practice within the School.

Staff will be able to identify their own values and prejudices more clearly and work in diverse teams with greater awareness of the behavioural issues that may arise.

Fair Treatment and Respect for Managers
Friday 12 December, 10am

Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work.  Bullying and harassment of any kind are in no-one’s interest and should not be tolerated in the workplace. This interactive course is designed to effectively promote a culture of fair treatment and respect in the work-place and therefore reduce the number of cases in the first place. It helps managers prevent bullying and harassment and to deal with any cases that occur.

By the end of this course you will:

  • Define what is bullying and harassment
  • Know why managers need to take action
  • Have a summary of the key legislation
  • Help prevent bullying and harassment and deal with cases that occur
  • Consider your own behaviours and the importance of being a good role model
  • Have practical application and ‘safe environment’ practice

Fair Treatment and Respect for Staff
Friday 19 December, 10am

This interactive course explores the challenges when facing incidents of bullying or harassment and will highlight how clear, empathetic and adaptable communication can not only offer support to those dealing with such cases but also effectively promote a culture of fair treatment and respect in the work-place and therefore reduce the number of cases in the first place.  As well as drawing on various behavioural psychologies and communication models, the programme will also ensure that all employees are aware of both the legislative and corporate policies that are in place to protect them.

By the end of this course you will:

  • Know what is bullying and harassment – what does the law say and how does bullying feel like?
  • Know why and when can accusations of bullying or harassment happen?
  • Prevent negative behaviour – identifying potential risks and tools for personal protection
  • Consider communication and interaction at all levels – adapting personal approach to the situation
  • Know what you should do if you feel you are being bullied, if I am accused of bullying or see others being bullied?
  • Have practical application and ‘safe environment’ practice
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Nov 6 2014

Tackling Misogyny and Homophobia – lunchtime session

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Monday 10 November 2014, 12.30 – 2.00 pm, OLD.321

The men’s student rugby club circulated a leaflet at the Freshers’ Fair that included many reprehensible statements, including misogynistic and homophobic comments. The immediate response included statements from the School and the Students’ Union condemning the leaflet, followed by the SU disbanding the club, and the School carrying out a disciplinary investigation of the students whose profiles appeared in the leaflet. The incident has raised broader questions for the School community as a whole, which includes how common are such views among the student body, as well as how can the School tackle such views.

This session will be led by Peter Howlett, the Dean of Undergraduate Students, and Carolyn Solomon-Pryce, Equality and Diversity Manager, and will encompass much of the broader discussions taking place within the School over the past month.

There will be a sandwich lunch provided prior to a prompt start at 12.30. If you’re interested in attending please book a place asap via the training portal: https://apps.lse.ac.uk/training-system/userBooking/course/7435032

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Oct 15 2014

October is Black History Month

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Although we are halfway through October, there are still Black History Month events ongoing at LSE.

Black Achievement Conference

18 October 2014

The Black Achievement Conference is a free one-day event for African-Caribbean students in Years 10, 11 and 12, and their parents and carers. The conference is designed to help students and their families to plan for their future by providing a taste of higher education. The event aims to inspire students to aim higher, think bigger, realise their potential and make informed decisions about what to do with their futures. Apply by 17 October!

“Race”, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies – Fall Film Screening

22 October 2014

Alumni Theatre, New Academic Theatre (NAB LG.09)

Brought to you by the Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Working Group-Walking stories is an interwoven account of two racist attacks in Milan and Florence and the victims’ painful attempts to piece the fragments of their lives back together.

 The LSESU ACS Black Ascent 2014

23 October 2014 

Club Quarters Hotel, 61 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3JW

Come and join the LSESU African Caribbean Society as they celebrate Black History Month with their event ‘Black Ascent’. Hear debates from an amazing range of speakers and meet the ACS team!

LSESU Liberation trip: Black Chronicles exhibition

10 November 2014 

Rivington Place, Shoreditch

Don’t miss this one-off chance to see some of the first photos of Black people in Britain. Come along to this SU-run trip have a exclusive tour of the Black Chronicles II Exhibition at Rivington Place in Shoreditch.

Interested in joining LSE’s BME staff network EMBRACE?

EMBRACE (Ethnic Minorities Broadening Racial Awareness & Cultural Exchange) is LSE’s BME staff network. EMBRACE exists to raise awareness of and influence change around culture and diversity issues which affect LSE staff. It seeks to promote mutual understanding through equality, transparency, respect and recognition. The aim of the network is to provide support as well as development and networking opportunities for all members.

EMBRACE is open to all members of LSE staff.  If you would like to be added to the mailing list, or if you have any suggestions or feedback, please email embrace@lse.ac.uk.

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Oct 9 2014

Director’s message to School community following the Men’s Rugby Club incident

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8 October 2014


Most of you will be aware of the deplorable incident at Freshers’ Fair last week. The LSE Men’s Rugby Club handed out a leaflet that was homophobic, misogynistic, and otherwise offensive. The Club embarrassed itself, its sport, and the School.

I am proud of the LSE Students’ Union for taking prompt and decisive action. They have dissolved the Rugby Club, at least for the current year. You can find the statement by SU General Secretary Nona Buckley-Irvine here: http://lsesu.tumblr.com/post/99409601163/updated-statement-about-the-rugby-club.

LSE is also conducting an investigation, led by the Office of the Secretary. As is always the case with inquiries into individual conduct that could lead to disciplinary action, this proceeds without publicity, and with a strong concern for due process. I have asked that this be completed as expeditiously as possible. It is important, however, to make clear that the School condemns this and all actions that undermine mutual respect and inclusivity within the LSE community, including the denigration of anyone based on genderor sexual orientation.

But I write not simply about this particular incident or specific responses to it. This case calls our attention to broader issues. LSE is not free of the hostility and bias on lines of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and class that we see and criticise in other institutions and in society at large. We should hold ourselves to a high standard. Moreover, it is not enough to say we condemn hostility and bias against female and LGBTQ members of our community. We must act in stronger and more effective ways to achieve a truly inclusive, safe, and open institution.

We have a policy on Equality and Diversity which we need to live up to – and we need to make sure no one thinks of this merely as compliance with the law or as a set of bureaucratic procedures. We need to examine our policy to be sure it is adequate, and we need to look seriously at how we respond to negative incidents – including those with less publicity. But even more, we need to find positive, proactive ways to reduce bias and hostility and increase mutual respect and support. This goes for issues of disability, nationality, ethnicity, religion (or non-religion) as well as class, gender, and sexual orientation. This is a matter of culture, but also of individual actions for which everyone should feel responsible, and of how the institution works. It is important for staff as well as for students. It is a matter of wellbeing, but also of moral and even intellectual responsibility. Not least of all, it is one of the ways, along with research and teaching, in which LSE should aim for excellence and leadership.

In order that we make strides forward in this, I have asked our Registrar, Simeon Underwood, to draw up plans for a School-wide programme of practical action to combat bias and abuse based on gender or sexual orientation. This may include changes to the existing Equality and Diversity Executive Group or Consultative Forum or the creation of a new Task Force. As he develops plans, Simeon will work with other leaders in the School, including HR Director Indi Seehra. He will seek the help of representatives of key campus organisations, including Spectrum, the Gender Equality Forum and relevant societies within the Students’ Union. I have asked him to report back to me by Monday 27 October at the latest, and for this issue to be on the agenda of the Director’s Management Team on Tuesday 28 October. We will report back to the larger School community after this. If you have suggestions for practical actions the School could or should be taking, please contact Simeon at s.underwood@lse.ac.uk or contact the leaders of organisations working on these concerns. And of course you may write to me directly as many of you already have done.

Finally, I should like to use this message to apologise on behalf of the School, especially to our female and/or gay first-year students, who had to face this abuse during their first few days at LSE. The School and the Students’ Union both have counselling and support services and I encourage you to make use of them. But the School also has organisations prepared to campaign for change and I encourage you to make use of them as well.

Despite this embarrassment, we are enormously proud of LSE and proud partly because it does not choose to stand still and accept injustice or abuse but works to change them. Sometimes that means changing ourselves as well as the larger society. But if we can make positive change, we can turn this embarrassment into another reason to be proud.

Professor Craig Calhoun
Director and President

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Oct 9 2014

Statement from the Gender Equality Forum and Spectrum in response to the Men’s Rugby Club incident

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For the statement from Professor Craig Calhoun, President and Director of LSE, please see here - http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/diversity/2014/10/directors-message-to-school-community-following-the-mens-rugby-club-incident/ 

You can also follow the latest news on the Freshers’ Fair incident here - http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/aroundLSE/archives/2014/LSE-statement-on-Freshers-Fair-incident.aspx

8 October 2014

Members of the Gender Equality Forum (GEF) and Spectrum (the LSE’s LGBT+ forum) are outraged but not surprised at the Men’s Rugby Club handing out misogynous, homophobic, racist and classist leaflets in Freshers’ week.  We welcome the speedy decision of the LSESU to disband the Men’s Rugby Club for the rest of the academic year and their commitment to a broader challenge to hate speech and everyday inequality at LSE. In addition we call upon the LSE to recognise the gravity of both the specific incident and the broader context within which it has arisen.  We are clear that this event reflects a wider culture of inequality and elitism that needs to be transformed; any response that frames the incident as exceptional would be unacceptable.

We call on the School to provide a dynamic and proactive response that shows the School’s commitment to equality for all its members. Staff, faculty, researchers and students want their anger at the leaflets’ message to be taken seriously, and demand recognition of the pervasive issues of inequality that mar many people’s experience at the LSE.  We are concerned that LSE’s response thus far seems to be focused on damage limitation rather than real interrogation of the broader issues, a concern underlined by a historic failure to show real leadership on the need for change. New and existing students, staff, researchers and faculty at the LSE have a right to expect the School to ensure a safe environment within which all of us can thrive (as promised in the Strategic Review).

The GEF and Spectrum expect:

  • Full information on the time frame of the School investigation of the incident, including details of who will be conducting it and the process of their appointment.
  • A full statement from the School concerning its commitment to addressing sexism, homophobia, racism and classism at all levels across the school.
  • A firm action plan to transform the LSE’s elitist and hostile culture, and details of the process and extent of group consultation and open fora on these issues at the School.
  • A clear commitment to appropriate resourcing, monitoring and transparent reporting on the substantive outcomes of that plan, such that this does not remain a paper exercise.

LSE’s recent failure to secure a Bronze Institutional Award under the ECU’s Gender Equality Charter Mark, as well as our placement 314th out of 369 by Stonewall for our efforts to tackle discrimination and create an inclusive workplace for LGB employees, underlines many people’s sense that the School’s stated commitment to tackling inequality remains superficial. LSE has a strong Ethics Code to which it is obliged to adhere, and the failure to meet this commitment risks further damaging the School’s national and global reputation.

Provided the above conditions are met, the GEF and Spectrum are willing to work with the DMT as part of our ongoing efforts to create a safer and more inclusive environment at LSE. We see the issues arising from this incident as a real opportunity for LSE to take a lead in addressing everyday and institutional inequality.

Gender Equality Forum


Other concerned School members

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Aug 20 2014

The Ethnic Penalty: A more sophisticated form of discrimination


Black and minority ethnic people earn less than their white counterparts – this difference in earnings persists even after variables are controlled. There is no quick fix for this ‘ethnic penalty’ but, Jonathan Ashong Lamptey argues, transparency and accountability are steps in the right direction.

Despite the significant progress of the past 40 years, the British workplace remains unfair because people are still being paid according to the colour of their skin.

This difference in earnings between minority and majority ethnic groups is known as the ‘ethnic penalty’. It can be thought of as a tax, an additional cost incurred for being a member of a minority ethnic group.  In practical terms it is the shortfall in earnings that remains after taking into account characteristics that would reasonably be expected to influence employment opportunities, such as, age, education and local employment rates. Researchers have found evidence to support the ethnic penalty based on analysis of the Labour Force Survey. This is the largest household survey in the UK and is used to provide the official measures of employment and unemployment from the Office of National Statistics.

© Flickr user Gates Foundation

© Flickr user Gates Foundation

The data shows that there is a clear hierarchy of earnings in the British workplace revealing that different ethnic groups experience different ethnic penalties. At the bottom are Black Africans, Black Caribbeans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis experiencing a considerable ethnic penalty in terms of their earnings and access to employment. Chinese and Indians experience some disadvantage but compete on more equal terms. Interestingly white immigrants don’t experience an ethnic penalty; they receive a benefit and have been shown to earn more than white British people. There is also evidence to show that even though Africans and Indians were more likely to stay on at school or college than the white majority, the returns they enjoyed for each additional year of study were low. This suggests that the ethnic penalty can persist even if individuals seek further education.

This information is startling, but it is not news nor is it a secret. In 2006 the Government published a research report called ‘Ethnic penalties in the labour market: Employers and discrimination’ that explores this phenomenon in great detail.  So if the government know about this, how is this issue able to persist especially given the overhaul of previous legislation in the form of the Equality Act 2010?

My work with organisations in both the public sector and private sector has shown me that organisations are well aware of their obligations to comply with the legislation. Employers are careful of falling foul of the law and a whole industry has emerged in order to help them do this. The truth is that discrimination has become insidious and the ethnic penalty is more sophisticated than initially implied. It’s no longer a case of two people doing the same job: for example one Asian, one white and both receiving different salaries. In the 21st century to understand the ethnic penalty it is useful to be familiar with occupational segregation.

Occupational segregation describes the circumstances when different ethnic groups cluster around particular occupational groups. This becomes a problem when individuals are unable to enter occupations if they belong to a particular ethnic group. The ‘Ethnic penalties in the labour market: Employers and discrimination’ report found that men from Black African, Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds had greater concentration in routine work with lower earnings. These jobs are often unskilled and vulnerable to economic fluctuations and this can explain the higher unemployment rates for these groups compared to other British people. They are also underrepresented in leadership positions particularly in the private sector.

This suggests that occupational segregation allows the ethnic penalty to occur between different occupations, for example, lawyers and security guards rather than within a single occupation like law. It’s not as simple as getting paid less in a job because someone belongs to a minority group.

Occupational segregation also concerns access to occupational groups and this can begin prior to entering the labour market. In a competitive labour market many employers look for signals of high potential, traditionally this has meant an undergraduate degree.  A recent study from the LSE found that minority ethnic students were less likely than white students to be offered a university place. This is likely to undermine the recruitment opportunities available to minority ethnic candidates.

My own research was inspired by my curiosity at the apparent lack of black accountants in the UK and the lack of data available to establish the truth of my opinion.  The Freedom of Information Act gives the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations, this includes demographic data but there is no requirement to do the same in the private sector. Forward thinking organisations like Twitter, Facebook and Google have shared this information with the public and received criticism for the lack of diversity. However I think it is a positive step and have written about how their willingness to share this data implies a commitment to addressing these issues because they will be held accountable. There is no silver bullet to fix this problem, however transparency seems to be a step in the right direction.

Jonathan Ashong Lamptey is a PhD researcher in the department of Management at the London School of Economics. His research explores how minority ethnic professionals enhance their careers in the face of disadvantage. He is also the founder of Minority Interests, the leading research driven online resource for Minority Ethnic Professionals.

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Aug 7 2014

Black Academia in Britain

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This article has been cross-posted from The Disorder of Things.

While the issue of representation and experiences of Black people in academia is not new, recent initiatives, such as setting up of a network for Black British academics and efforts to institute British Black Studies, have refocussed its context. In this comprehensive and challenging post, Dr Robbie Shilliamdissects data and reports to demonstrate how much more work needs to be done so Black people in Britain don’t have to struggle to get proper access to institutions that they are supposed to be entitled to. 

The last few years have witnessed a growing concern with the challenges that peoples of African heritage – who I will define in this blog as Black peoples – face working and studying in the UK higher education system. Issues of the relative absence of Black people in influential positions have taken centre stage, alongside the direct and indirect discrimination that both black students and staff might confront. These are long standing issues. Indeed, for a number of years now, some British Black academics have made careers in North America more easily than in their domicile country. 

These challenges have been met by various recent initiatives, for example, a concerted effort to formally institute a British Black Studies, and the creation of a network of Black British Academics.To repeat, concerns as to the presence and experience of Black people in British academia are by no means new. But these concerns have been re-engaged within a new context marked by austerity, the growing internationalisation of universities, and the radical changes to the public university system in Britain implemented by the coalition government who  are turning “multiversities” into “monoversities” organised singularly along the lines of commercial logic and interest.

© Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

© Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Having been involved in a small way in recent re-engagements with the place and standing of Black academics and staff in UK academia I thought I would take stock and look at a few recent statistical and qualitative studies that appraise the state of Black academia in Britain, from both an academic and student standpoint.

Before I start, though, I want to say a few words about the internal composition of Black peoples in the UK. According to the 2011 Census, Black people now compose 3.3% of the population. However, the pronounced immigration over the last twenty or so years of peoples from the African continent has significantly shifted the demographics and dynamics of the Black population itself. Whereas, in the 1950s to 80s, Black Britain referred primarily to the ‘historical’ African Diaspora – mainly those from an African-Caribbean background – it now predominantly refers to a new Diaspora with a continental background.

Continental African peoples, at least those who are not coming as refugees (and that is an important qualification), have generally arrived with more capital than the historical Diaspora had, and have inserted themselves into a different socio-economic context. However, my impression is that the children of the migrating parents, if they spend their formative time in the UK, start to experience many of the same differential treatments based on racial stereotyping as their peers from the historical Diaspora have long contended with. We are already a good two generations into the making of the new continental Diaspora (although continental Africans were always present in the UK). And racism, especially of the institutional kind, is a perverse kind of leveller.

Another point to note is the rise of the nebulous category of ‘mixed’ (race science and ideology at its best). Interest in ‘mixed race’ people has grown significantly, supposedly in line with the growth of this demographic. However, in relative terms, ‘mixed race’ people have grown only by 1% as a share of the UK population. I do not want to say that this is not important, but I do think that the statistical fascination with this category of people is driven by ideology as much as anything else.

To my mind, the ideology that ‘mixed race’ people represent a triumph of multiculturalism and an inauguration of a post-racial future for Britain is quite strong. But my concern is specifically to do with what I perceive as the proliferation of racial stratifications and discriminations. And to understand and chart these proliferations the category of ‘mixed’ is, I would suggest, in and of itself heuristically useless. (If you think about it carefully, how can one actually be a mixed-race? Surely it’s a plural?) For example, the child of a working-class white woman and working-class black man is going to have quite different experiences to the child of a first generation migrant black woman and a middle-class white English man.

In other words, perhaps more so than any other ethnic category, ‘mixed’ hides a plethora of different cultural and social capitals. There is also the issue of colour and shade that does make a difference at the level of appearance and reception, and this should not be ignored, but is entirely muted by the category.  Finally, we should also consider that many ‘mixed’ people might mark themselves as such on a census form but would identify as Black in many other social situations.

For all these reasons, in what follows, I will at times concentrate on the  differences but also similarities between the experiences and status of historical and recent Diaspora, encoded imperfectly in the data as ‘Caribbean’ and ‘African’. I will also differentiate UK-nationality from non-UK nationality people because I believe that at a general level the institutional racism – a consistent background hum – affects those who spend their formative years here in ways that are not necessarily experienced by those who migrate here for professional reasons later in their life. This will be especially important with regards to student experience, where I will focus primarily on UK-domicile Black students.

Additionally, I will for the most part avoid statistics referring to the category of ‘mixed’. The analytical weakness of this category as ‘stand-alone’ is evident in the Equality Challenge Unit’s (ECU) data, wherein the weak justification for singling out ‘mixed’ as an ‘ethnicity’ for the first time in its 2013 report is “due to the growing size of this group”. This begs the prior question as to on what basis was it deemed to be a distinct ethnicity in the first place.

In what follows I am principally using the following reports: ECU Statistical Report 20102013; the 2011 ECU Experience of Black and Minority Ethnic Staff in HE in England report; and the NUS Race for Equality Report 2011. I have also consulted Kalwant Bhopal and June Jackson’s Experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Academics 2013 report, Philip Noden, Michael Shiner and Tariq Modood’s 2014 Black and Minority Ethnic Access to Higher Education: A Reassessment, and Black British Academic’s 2014 Race Equality Survey. So now I will look at issues to do with Black staff and then with Black students. I will finish with some broad assessments and provocations.

As a P.S., I am not looking into differences between SET and non-SET experiences (broadly, the natural sciences versus social sciences, humanities and arts). Much of what I will say applies to both broad groupings; however, there are differences that require useful elucidation, I will admit. I should also be honest and say that much of how I approach these issues is influenced by my working in the non-SET academic field.


There are 7730 Black people working in UK academia. As a percentage of the 367830 workers, Black staff constitute 2.10% of the total. When it comes to UK-national staff, Black workers constitute just 1.7% of the total of all workers in higher education institutions. Even if this is a rise of 0.2% from 2010, the UK census puts the Black presence at 3.3% of the normally-resident population. Therefore Black people are significantly under-represented in the higher education workforce.

Out of the total population of Black staff, both UK national and non-national and including ‘mixed’ people who identify as such, 41.27% have a ‘Caribbean’ background, and 51.06% have an ‘African’ background, with the remainder categorised as ‘other’ Black. These percentages reflect in some way the demographic shift within the wider Black population. However, continental African staff are significantly over-represented in the non-national category. So when the percentages are worked out only for UK-national staff, Caribbean staff form the majority (52%) compared to African staff (40%). Perhaps in the next 5 to 10 years this percentage will slowly start to reflect the wider UK demographic wherein Black people from a continental African background predominate. These trends will need to be observed keenly.

Overall, though, these statistics indicate that Black people are under-represented in staff positions across the university system. White staff make up 84.27% of the higher education working population and 86% of the broader UK population. If the differential between white university staff and the broader white population is 0.97, then we would expect, all things being equal, for Black staff to make up 3.2% of the university working population. However, they make up 2.10% of that population.

© Flickr user Julie anne Johnson

© Flickr user Julie anne Johnson

We could quibble over a 0.9% difference. And I can understand that point of view if you are a part of – or talking about – the 309,995 white workers. But if you are a minority, or talking about minorities, then the small shifts in percentages have massive effects in terms of presence and power.

Let us now talk about the different job types available in academia (e.g. academic professional, secretary, security guard, non-academic manager). Starting with UK-national staff only, Black people constitute just 1.1% of the total of academic professionals. This is the smallest percentage of any ethnic group, although Chinese are close-by with 1.2%. Even when we add together non-national and UK-national staff we find that out of a total academic professional staff of 165445, 2560 are Black, that is, 1.54%, even though they constitute 3.3% of the British population. Alternatively, white academic professionals compose 87.45% of the total and are over-represented in terms of being 86% of the broader population.  In contrast, 6.91% of white workers (both UK-national and non-national) are employed as cleaners, catering assistants, security officers, porters and maintenance workers; while 19.27% of Black staff are employed in these roles.

Thus, Black people are significantly under-represented in academic roles and significantly over-represented in manual jobs.

Let’s now move on to the differentials that ensue from the type of job contracts held. There is little difference between the relative percentage of holders of teaching-only and teaching-and-research contracts between white and Black academic staff (UK-national and non-national). And in terms of UK-national staff specifically, the relative proportion of full time to part time posts is consonant between white and Black staff at approximately 63% to 37%. However, there is relatively more Black staff on fixed term contracts (34.8%) than white staff (31.6%). What is more, within the part time category, 61.32% of Black staff are on fixed-term contracts as opposed to 53.98% of white staff.

So while both UK-national constituencies share the same percentage of full to part time staff, relatively more white academics than black academics are contracted in permanent/open positions and relatively more black academics occupy the most tenuous academic contract: the fixed-term part time.

For non-UK national academic staff, these differences are a little more accentuated: 57.9%permanent/open and 42.1% fixed for white staff, compared to 51% permanent/open and 49% fixed for black staff. This difference could speak to the cultural and social capital that non-national white staff might accrue hailing largely from old British dominion countries or the US as opposed to Black staff, some of whom might come from the same countries but many of whom would not. There has been much work done on the racist determinants of perceived geo-cultural differences regarding professional competency and comparability.

More serious disparities and under-representations exist when it comes to the relative seniority of Black academics in comparison to other ethnicities. Putting together UK-national and non-national academics, we find that 92.39% of professors (15905) in the UK are white, and 0.49% (85) professors are Black. The percentage of professors who are Black is significantly lower than for any other minority. So in both absolute and relative terms there is a massive under-representation of Black professorsespecially Black women who perhaps count for just 15 of those 85 Black professors. In Bhopal and Jackson’s recent report on the experience of BME academics one such professor recounts her feelings of alienation that emanate from this under-representation:

“I am always a black woman. If you look around, when I go to the professorial meetings in this university, they are dominated by men. I am the only black person there. But I am also one of a very very small number of women.”

The picture is similar when it comes to academics in senior management roles: 2.2% of white UK-national academics occupy such roles compared to 1.1% of Black UK-national academics. Let us again talk absolute numbers: just 15 Black UK-national academics occupy senior management roles. How many of them are women? I don’t know. But zero non-UK Black academics occupy such roles. None at all. And, as a percentage of both UK-national and non-national senior managers overall, Black academics constitute just 0.52%.

A significant reason for this non-representativeness relates to networks that early-career Black academics are rarely introduced into. And there are many reports of Black PhDs being neglected relative to their supervisor’s treatment of his or her white supervisees. In my limited experience, the lack of mentoring for early and mid-career Black academics is a significant issue that can only be redressed pro-actively through schemes such as the University of London’s B-Mentor project.

Whatever the reason, the extreme paucity of Black academic presence at the top – both in terms of professoriate and senior-management – also translates into salary differentials. 29.4% of white UK-national and non-national academics earn over 50,000GBP as opposed to 17.7% of Black UK-national and non-national academics. Black academics are also significantly behind all other ethnicities in terms of the percent of them who earn in this bracket.  

Presence and power are related. I would not for one moment assume that a Black person around a table of white (and other BME) people will automatically represent Black interests (whatever they might be). In fact, the hyper-visibility that comes with being in a department where you are the only BME academic might make you feel far too vulnerable to voice any concerns about race and racism. It is not uncommon, for example, for BME academics to avoid taking part in ‘race groups’. Indeed, you might be worried that to be associated with a race would tend to de-professionalise you in the eyes of your colleagues: white academics are usually, simply, ‘academics’; Black academics are always Black, and it is not necessarily by choice.

Nevertheless, the presence of BME people around the tables of senior management can make a big difference in terms of their presence itself mitigating against some of the more thoughtless behaviour that comes with belonging to and being surrounded by a dominant group (of any kind).  This is sorely needed. For example, one institution consulted in an ECU survey declared that, because they only had a few BME staff, race was not an issue for them.

Additionally, the near-total absence of Black academics in senior positions reproduces particular assumptions of limited competency that accompany racial/gender stereotypes, the implicit biases of which are well documented. One of the most debilitating assumptions, in this regard, is that a professional mistake or weakness must be due to one’s race rather than due to a simple matter of context. Because of this assumption, Black academics can often suffer from over-scrutiny by senior colleagues and, like many other BME groups, can be overlooked for promotions or not encouraged to reply.

We should not ignore the fact that straightforward bullying and mentally debilitating racial harassment are not uncommon, and this seems to disproportionately affect Black women academics. Many of us will know at least one such story. It should also be noted, in this respect, that Black academics have a younger demographic than all other ethnicities including white; and amongst UK-national Black academics, women form the majority at 61.3%: this is the highest percent of women in any ethnic group including white. Youth, gender and race; any one element can feed an implicit bias of sub-competency to greater or lesser effect. Now combine them all.

It might be no surprise to learn, then, that BME academics as a whole leave their current institution at a higher rate than their white counterparts. In 2013, 22% of BME academics left compared to 15% of white academics. Moreover, if they leave academia as a whole, BME academics are far less likely to have retired for this reason than their white counterparts and somewhat more likely to no longer be in regular employment than their white counterparts.


Many of the disparities and challenges that face Black academics also affect Black students, especially those who are UK-domicile. Let us first look at the broad demographics.

Black students make up 6% of UK-domicile students in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined. If we isolate England, Black students then make up 6.9% of the UK-domicile student population, and this figure in relative terms is more than double the representative percentage of Black people as part of the general population (3.3%). In fact, Black students have enjoyed the biggest increase amongst BME groups over the last decade – from 4.4% in 2003/4 to the present number. Things are looking extremely positive here.

Let’s look a little deeper, though.

4.2% of first year UK-domicile students are from a Black African background, 1.5% from a Black Caribbean background, and 0.3% are ‘Black other’. This raises the question as to whether the increase in Black students has come mainly via those from a Black African background who are over-represented more than their Black Caribbean counterparts. I mention this just to suggest that the relative over-representation of Black students might not be the result of opening pathways through to university but rather due to actual or residual social capital being carried over by first generation migrant parents with aspirations of university education for their children.

It should be said here that first generation Caribbean parents had very similar aspirations some decades ago, hence the creation of supplementary schools in the UK by Black parents who thought that their children’s education in Britain was sub-standard, not to mention racist. I wonder how the dynamic of the new constellation of Black students will work out two or three generations down the line.

Anyway, taught Masters programmes also demonstrate an over-representation of UK-domicile Black students similar to the undergraduate scene. But this is not the case at PhD level, where Black students constitute 3.1% of the UK-domicile student demographic. Still,  this percentage remains  very equitable.

However, 46.2% of those Black PhD students are in part-time study, and this is the biggest percent by far of part-time students across all ethnic groups including white. I would therefore suggest that Black PhD students have to tackle pronounced problems in funding and paying for their studies. This can often hold negative ramifications for career progression; here we might be seeing a causal link between differentials in student experience and staff represenation amongst UK-domicile Black academics.

This point returns us to the importance of investigating the ways in which black students, albeit over-represented at undergraduate level, face particular challenges in academia, challenges that, as we will see, seem to lead to differential attainment levels.

The first noticeable point is that Black students tend to be over-represented in less prestigious universities. Infamously, Oxford accepted just one Black Caribbean student in 2009. And the acceptance rate of Black candidates for Oxford in 2010 was 14% as opposed to 24% for white students. Just as tellingly, in recent years three universities in London have held more than half of all UK-domicile Black students: London Metropolitan, South Bank, and East London. (And 17.4% of all UK-domicile London students are Black.)

Let’s take one statistic as a further example: in 2007-8, one university, London Met, accepted 6,115 black students whereas in the same year all the institutions that make up the Russell group accepted 7,815 black students. Russell Group universities should have 25,000 Black students if they are to be representative of the general population: they have, instead, in the most recent stats that I could find, only 11,000 – less than half of a fair representation. Incidentally, a recent NUS report noted a perception amongst BME students that they would be more likely to experience racism in a Russell Group institution.

It is fair to say that social-economic disadvantages come into play here. Many students from a poorer background cannot afford to study away from their home. And most (but not all) prestigious institutions are not based in or sufficiently near socio-economically deprived areas. A recent study sponsored by the LSE suggests that socio-economic barriers (the type of school attended and number of A-levels taken) account for the fact that Black students are less likely to target elite institutions.

However, even with all other factors taken into account (including socio-economic) the report notes that Black African candidates (along with Bangladeshi candidates) receive on average five extra rejections per one hundred applications than white students, while Black Caribbean applicants receive three extra rejections. While we could posit that foreign-sounding names might have a part to play in discriminating against Black African applicants, this would be far less the case with Black Caribbean applicants, leading to the possibility that racial stereotyping is also in effect at interview level.

I can say, having taken part in undergraduate interview processes at Oxford for two years, and having undertaken this duty with a colleague who was genuinely and actively committed to student diversity, white-home-counties-accent-upper-middle-class-male privilege is most definitely hard to neutralise when it comes to the kind of social and cultural capital a student can wield at these interviews.      

London Met, South Bank and East London are fine universities in and of themselves, and I know of many fantastic scholars and students undertaking cutting-edge work in these institutions. However, in ranking systems that employers look at, these institutions feature fairly low down. The point here is not to say that Black students shouldn’t go to these institutions but to point out the inequitable nature of the clustering of Black students in such institutions as a reflection of broader sector inequalities.

© Flickr user Gates Foundation

© Flickr user Gates Foundation

On that note, let’s look at what happens to students at the end of the year. With regards to the UK-domicile population, 91.6% of white students continue into the next year at their institution, 1.6% transfer and 6.9% leave higher education. For UK-domicile Black students the comparable figures are 85.3%, 3.5% and 11.2%. In other words, more Black students transfer from their institution and leave university all together relative to their white counterparts. In fact, Black students transfer or leave university at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. We should recall here the cognate statistics regarding BME academic staff who leave their institutions at a higher frequency than their white counterparts.

Why are Black students (just like Black staff) relatively more ill-at-ease in their institutions than white students? Well, we would certainly have to take into account personal, familial and economic factors outside of university, and I do not want to belittle these at all. However, there is a tendency for university administration – and, it has to be said, many lecturers too – to point to these external factors thereby deferring any serious engagement with factors that are entirely to do with the experience that Black students have within university.

A recent NUS report brings to light some of these factors. Firstly, Black students can feel (not unlike Black academics) that differential treatment or assessment is received on account of racial stereotypes and implicit bias. Secondly, the curricula of non-SET subjects – i.e. social science, humanities and arts subjects – will rarely include in any substantive fashion Black histories, cultures, actors and thought systems. This can lead to alienation of and disinvestment in studies while, alternatively, white students (especially middle class ones) might be able to better utilise their cultural capital to invest themselves in their studies. As one Black African student put it in the NUS study: “there is a standard way of thinking that is hegemonically white”; one ‘mixed race’ student commented upon “not being able to express or hear our own experience in learning”.

Cultural capital can be a great reproducer of inequality if institutions operate mono-culturally. In fact, 42% of BME students in the NUS study argued that the subject matter and pedagogical concerns of their modules did not take their diverse backgrounds into account. Moreover, 49% of African and Caribbean students and, interestingly, 80% of ‘mixed race’ students wished to be involved in shaping the content of their course.

Another study found that students attending a Russell Group or pre-1992 institution were significantly more likely to argue that the material of their course was not diverse enough. And we know that it is precisely these more prestigious institutions that have the fewest Black students. The NUS study also found that perceptions of racism increase with the age of the student; and we also know that the Black student demographic is the oldest, in relative terms, of all ethnic groups including white.

Alienating and disinvesting experiences can make university feel like a foreign territory, as commented by one Black student in the NUS survey: “I feel alone. I wonder, should I be here? Do I have a right to be here, even though I’m not an international student?” From my own experience I can say that it was not until the 2nd year of my PhD studies that I felt comfortable enough to walk slowly through the corridors of my institution rather than rush through and out of them.  I distinctly remember one evening, during my undergraduate degree, when I left my senses behind because I so wanted to be at university, especially in the library, but all that I could feel there was that I was in enemy territory. It wasn’t any one individual’s fault. It was the environment itself.

A 2010 survey found that 22% of white students complained that they did not feel integrated into university social life compared to 33% of Black Caribbean and African students. Again, we might note the similarities of experiences between Black academic staff and students in this regard. And again, the university system is ill-prepared to address these problems: in an Equality Challenge Unit study in 2011, 45% of institutions surveyed admitted that there were barriers to personal development and progression in their institutions, but only 14% believed that there were any barriers specific to their BME constituencies.

One could say that all these factors are by and large matters of perception. I often wonder how many different ways people can justify-away racism. Why is it that people of colour so often perceive racism, and white people so often rationalise these perceptions away? Is it a madness that runs in the blood? Anyhow, let’s move away from ‘perception’ and look instead at some of the concrete differentials in attainment amongst students.

For UK-domicile students, here is a portion of the most recent breakdown of awards:

Class                      Group               % of group attaining award

1st class:                white women          18.3%

1st class                 black women           5.7%

1st class                 white men               19.4%

1st class                 black men                6.9%

2:1 class                white women           54.7%

2:1 class                black women           38.3%

2:1 class                white men                50.1%

2:1 class                black men                35.1%

Amongst all ethnic and gender groups, Black women achieved the lowest percent of 1sts by a significant margin. This is despite Black women being relatively over-represented in the undergraduate academy. We should also remember that the Black student population possesses the highest percentage of women (59.4%) out of all UK-domicile ethnic groups including whites. Meanwhile, the percent of 1sts that Black men received was second lowest to Black women amongst all ethnicities and gender groups, and the percent of 2:1s that Black men received was the lowest amongst all ethnicities and gender groups.

Interestingly, the differences between Caribbean and African UK-domicile students was not so great. Caribbean students obtained marginally less 1sts than African students, yet Caribbean students obtained marginally more 2:1s than African counterparts. I would propose that this statistic might be picking up the effect of the perverse equalisation of racism that affects youth from migrant families who spend their formative years in Britain.

One might say, however, that we would need to look at the academic level that Black students start with in order to judge the ‘value-added’ of their final attainments. For, if the academic starting point is lower than the norm, then perhaps Black students have achieved quite a lot in relative terms, if they are achieving, on average, 2:2s and some are hitting 2:1s and a few 1sts. While I do not want to dismiss this important point of contextualisation, I think that it can once more play into a deferral of engagement with institutional racism. The issue is not so much the point itself, but rather if the point is accompanied by an avoidance of the fundamental purposes of the university system in the UK.

The Robbins Report of 1963 laid out the purposes of higher education as a sector opened, for the first time, to the masses of the people. Amongst other items, the Robbins Report considered the university to be fit-for-purpose if it was acting as an institutional leveller of life chances. That is, contemporary university in the UK is supposed to denude, as much as is possible, previous socio-economic privileges by allowing for a genuine meritocratic playing field to emerge out of anextremely stratified society, a field upon which young people can launch their adult lives through their own abilities and efforts.

There is something seriously wrong in the very functioning of the university system, then, if it is reproducing privilege or even extending and deepening privilege as an outcome of undergraduate study.  The 2010 Browne Report, which announced the start of significant transformations to the UK university system currently being undertaken by the coalition government, does not focus on the issue of social justice at all. It does, however, embrace a further opening of university governance to market logics. Hence, I would argue that we are in a worse situation now in these regards than we were before 2010.

Furthermore, the reproduction of privilege within the public university system articulates with the reproduction of disparities of life chances post-university. After finishing their degree, 56.5% of UK-domicile white students find full time employment compared to 45.4% of Black students. Both these figures are up roughly 3% from 2010, which is good, but the disparity between them has remained almost exactly the same.

Moreover, 6% of white students find themselves unemployed compared to 14.6% of Black students – a significant disparity. These figures confirm other investigations that have revealed a disproportionate percentage of young Black people have been suffering unemployment due to austerity measures, and that there is a greater tendency among young Black people for the jobs that they do get to be part time or fixed contract. However, slightly more Black students, as a relative percentage, re-enter full time study than white students; perhaps this is in part due to the adverse job market that many experience.

It is important to also look at the different leaving experiences within the Black student population. 35% of UK-domicile Black Caribbean leavers land a full-time professional job, and this is the same as the percentage of Black African leavers. However, a greater percentage of Black Caribbean leavers land a part-time job (18.7%) as opposed to Black African leavers (13.2%). And a greater number of Black African students go back into full-time study (13.8%) in comparison to black Caribbean (10.1%). But notably, a significantly greater percentage of Black African leavers are unemployed (16.2%) compared to Black Caribbean (10.3%).  This last point might pertain to the visibility of ‘foreign-sounding’ names on CV applications and the demonstrated prejudice that accompanies these names in the minds of employers.

These observations suggest that while both Black Caribbean and African students disproportionately suffer from a blocking or arresting of their careers as opposed to white counterparts, these experiences tend to manifest for Black students in different ways and perhaps for different reasons.


Black students are over-represented in general, but especially – and perversely – in less prestigious institutions. They are significantly under-represented when it comes to high attainment and career progression.  Black academics are under-represented in general, and they are acutely under-represented at higher levels of management and leadership.

To my mind, these basic findings reflect a simple story:  Black people in Britain have fought long and hard to get proper access to institutions that they are supposed to be entitled to. They have had to overcome and dismantle the barriers to progress through their own hard work. Nothing was given to Black people free in Britain. Everything was struggled for. They succeeded in opening up academia, no doubt as part of the wider race, class and feminist movements mounted against the hierarchies of British society that entrench white, rich male privilege and dominance.

However, while academia has opened its doors, it has been unwilling or unable to dismantle the norms, networks, and practices that reproduce white, rich male privilege in the first place. The diminishment  of ‘social justice’ in many university strategic plans by the enlargement of ‘internationalization’ agendas is testimony to the dissonance that exists between the principles of open access and the realities of institutional privilege. Disparities entrench themselves first and foremost at a domestic and local level. If you need to leap-frog over these levels into the global market in order to attain your diversity quotas then you are avoiding any serious engagement with this dissonance. You will not be fit-for-purpose in the eyes of the Robbins Report. But worringly, the newer Browne Report will judge you to be entirely fit-for-purpose.

I want to finish by telling an ordinary story of Black academics and students.

Like most of their colleagues and peers, Black academics and students want to be challenged, and to enjoy the challenge. They want to feel comfortable in university because it should be their place too. They want to be treated through a genuinely meritocratic calculus. They want to study what they think is of value and importance, and they want to address lacunae in knowledge that they believe to be significant. They would like to utilise their own diverse experiences, networks and knowledges as social and cultural capital. Most would want to use this capital to facilitate their own achievements; some might even want to use it to suture the wounds that they have collectively experienced in Babylon system; and all would expect their capital to enrich the general store of human knowledge. They don’t want people to experience cognitive dissonance when they meet a Black expert on – or enthusiast of – French philosophy or Russian literature.  But they also don’t want to be seen as any less worldly if they wish to academically concentrate on Black studies and, heavens forbid, matters of racism. Basically, they want to live a considered life, like any other intellectual.

Black academics and students are entirely ordinary. What makes them exceptional is only the racism that they encounter in the course of their ordinary pursuits.

Dr Robbie Shilliam is a senior lecturer in International Relations at Queen Mary University of London. He is co-convener of the British International Studies Association’s Colonial/Postcolonial/Decolonial working group, a member of the International Advisory Board of the Transnational Decolonial Institute, and an advisor to the Rastafari Global Council. Robbie blogs at http://thedisorderofthings.com/ and has a personal blog at http://robbieshilliam.wordpress.com/.

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Jul 8 2014

Race at the Top


Last month Race for Opportunity, the race equality campaign from Business in the Community, launched the Race at the Top report, the most comprehensive picture of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation in leadership in UK business today. The report follows the ‘Race to the Top’ research published five years ago, which warned that if action was not taken to address the gap between BAME managers and senior managers and their representation in the general population, it would only continue to widen. Sandra Kerr OBE, director of Race for Opportunity shares the disappointing progress it highlighted.

race_at_the_topv3_0‘Race at the Top’ found that sadly, this has proved that the gap has widened, with the gap at management level widening between 2007 and 2012. Whilst one in 10 of the UK workforce comes from a BAME background, they hold just one in 13 management roles and one in 16 senior management posts.

We also found that BAME management remains concentrated in just three sectors, with three-quarters of BAME managers and senior managers working in public administration, education & health; banking, finance & insurance; or distribution, hotels & restaurants. Meanwhile, representation in sectors such as construction, manufacturing and energy & water has seen minimal change, suggesting these sectors need to do more work to attract BAME candidates. There is also still chronic BAME under-representation in the media, legal sector and politics.

Despite some good news, such as the increase in BAME managers in banking and finance and 10% of supervisors coming from BAME backgrounds, the 2007 management pipeline has not reached its full potential. There are still significant barriers to BAME progression and leadership is disproportionately skewed towards certain sectors and against specific ethnic groups.

By 2051 one in five people in the UK will come from a BAME background, representing a scale of consumer spending and political voting power that politicians and businesses cannot afford to ignore. Whilst we cannot allow the gap to widen further, little will change unless action is taken now. This is not about moral pleading, but rather about good business sense.

That’s why Race for Opportunity is calling for a government review into racial barriers in the workplace, and for the words ‘and race’ to be added to the UK Corporate Governance Code. This type of government-led action can be a hugely powerful force for positive change, as demonstrated by the Lord Davies review into gender, and is vital to ensure the current intake of BAME workers are able to progress fairly compared to their white counterparts.

We are also calling on businesses in all sectors to make a concerted effort to attract and retain BAME employees and ensure equal progression. The report includes a number of recommendations on how to achieve this, including mandatory unconscious bias training for recruiters and mentoring for BAME staff.

We called for action five years ago and we are calling for action today. Now is the time for politicians and business leaders to work together so that in five years’ time we can say the gap has closed.

You can read the executive summary of the Race at the Top report on the Race for Opportunity website.

Sandra Kerr OBE is director of Race for Opportunity, the race equality campaign from Business in the Community.

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