Racial inequality in UK management widens to point of no return

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New research shows that no progress is being made on tackling race inequality in management. The organisation behind the report, Business in the Community’s race equality campaign Race for Opportunity, is calling for a government review to racial barriers in the workplace and for ‘and race’ to be added to the UK Corporate Governance Code to ensure ethnic minorities progress into management positions at the same pace as the general working population.

‘Race at the Top’ is the most comprehensive picture of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in leadership in UK business today. It finds that only one in 16 top management positions and one in 13 management positions are held by BAME people, despite the fact that one in 10 people in employment are BAME.

Race for Opportunity is calling for a government review into racial barriers in the workplace that is akin to the Lord Davies review into gender, and for two words – ‘and race’ – to be added to the UK Corporate Governance Code.

Sandra Kerr OBE, Race for Opportunity Director, Business in the Community, says: “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.”

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of management positions held by BAME people are clustered in just three sectors: banking & finance; distribution, hotels & restaurants; and public administration, education & health. The majority of management positions within the energy & water, construction, legal, media and political sectors continue to be held by white people – mirroring the state of play in 2007.

Race at the Top key findings include:

  • The share of BAME people in top management has increased by just 0.5% between 2007 and 2012, but in real terms the number of BAME people in top management positions has decreased from 95,023 to 73,378 – a drop of 21,645
  • There have been substantial drops in management positions held by BAME people across the East Midlands, North East and Yorkshire & Humber between 2007 and 2012
  • ‘Other services’, which includes small and medium-sized enterprises, had the fastest growth rate of BAME managers between 2007 and 2012 (51%), suggesting BAME people prefer to start a new business than to find employment in the more traditional industries – whether by choice or necessity
  • In 2012/13, 5.5% of ministerial appointments were given to those from a BAME background, a drop from 7.2% of ministerial appointments in 2011/2012
  • Almost one in 10 of the Civil Service (9.6%) were from a BAME background in 2013, but only 5% (one in 20) of those at Senior Civil Service level are BAME
  • In 2012, 13.2% of all practising barristers were BAME lawyers, yet only 5.2% of the 1,426 QCs were BAM
  • The banking, finance & insurance industry has increased its percentage of BAME managers from 10% to 11% between 2007 and 2012

Paul Cleal, Partner at PwC, and Race for Opportunity Advisory Board member says: “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.”

Race for Opportunity is also calling on employers in all sectors to do more to attract and retain BAME workers and ensure equal progression, and ‘Race at the Top’ includes recommendations to support them, such as monitoring, mentoring programmes, board level sponsorship and role models.

The next 12 months offers the ideal opportunity for political parties of all hues to ensure that race equality within the workplace is front and centre of their manifestos as they approach the general election on 7 May 2015.

To join the conversation online: #RaceAtTheTop

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  1. Spent a decade in the UK. I found the mentality in London shockingly racist and xenophobic. The British disease is also alive and well. Scores of miserable, envious individuals with an appalling attitude towards others’ hard earned successes – to pull down whoever was doing well, or to sabotage those who would not fit in culturally, meaning non British and non white in spite of specialised skill sets and intelligence. I have witnessed hiring processes first hand, and over an extended time period. I understand the why intelligent individuals of all races as well as minorities just leave.

    It’s us, not them. Sad.

    Efforts to shift attention to wider representation of ethnic minorities in management are needed. The environment is not welcoming. Also need to train, retain, fairly compensate and offer growth and development opportunities. I say this an a non-minority. Anyone who is honest and observant knows I am correct.

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