UK businesses must work on equality

Government WarnedRace at the Top – a report from Race for Opportunity, the equality arm of charity Business in the Community (BITC) – found that the share of BAME people in top management positions increased by only 0.5% from 2007 to 2012

In real numbers, however, the number of BAME people in these positions actually decreased by over 21,000; down from 95,023 to 73,378.

At present, where one in 10 employed people comes from a BAME background, just one in 16 holds a top management position.

PwC partner Paul Cleal said, “The current situation is a glaring injustice and a critical business issue because firms need to employ and promote the best people available, regardless of ethnicity.

“Businesses in multi-ethnic and multicultural Britain need to ensure their workforces are diverse and reflect the demographics of modern society in order to be successful, as well as doing the right thing.”

Some of the worst performing industries for equality include construction, legal and political sectors, where white people hold most high-level jobs. The media and news industry is especially bad, with 94% of management positions filled by white people.

However, the finance and banking industries have improved their records, with 11% of management positions filled by people from BAME backgrounds.

Cleal said, “There are a number of factors why these industries have improved. One is the London effect – many jobs in those industries are in London, which is the most diverse location in the country, and world.

“Finance and banking have had a rough ride in the recent economic crisis; it is probably more of a meritocracy than other industries.”

Cleal explained that businesses should measure data to ensure ethnic minority employees were open to the same opportunity as white employees.

“People [in HR departments] are only making binary decisions,” Cleal said. “You have got to get down to that decision-making level – the first place you look is the data.”

Another common problem was the tendency “to lump together” people from different ethnic minority backgrounds.

Cleal said, “Very often, it can be seen that Bangladeshi or Pakistani minorities do not progress as well as Indian people, or African people do better than West Indians; this also needs to be addressed.”

With university graduates increasingly coming from ethnic minority backgrounds, Cleal said that it was crucial these issues did not continue into the future.

“If we are standing here with the same problem in 15 years time, we really are not getting our most qualified people into the right positions,” he said.

Race for Opportunity director, Sandra Kerr OBE, called on the government for a review into the UK governance code of conduct.

Kerr said, “By 2051, one in five people in the UK will be from an ethnic minority background, representing a scale of consumer spending and political voting power that business and government alike cannot afford to ignore. The gap must not be allowed to widen further, but without action, little will change.

“I am calling on government for a ‘Lord Davies’ review to amplify understanding around the barriers BAME employees face in reaching management positions, and for two simple words – “and race” – to be added to the UK Corporate Governance Code. We urgently need these to happen if we are to ensure that we don’t pass the point of no return.”





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