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 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.