New research finds that businesses are failing to collectively address and act upon racial disparity in the workplace, leading to calls of utilising HR data to take action. 

A new report released by the Black British Business Awards in partnership with J.P Morgan has shown that ethnic minority professionals face many challenges to advance from middle management to senior management.

Utilising data from Mckinsey studies carried out in 2018 and 2019, the research cites that companies with ethnically diverse executive teams are over a third (36 per cent) more likely to financially outperform their peers.

However, the research identifies key issues which must be overcome in order to do this.  HR Directors and Diversity and Inclusion Practitioners found that the data being collected must be changed, focusing on improving data capture and transparency.

Under two-thirds of respondents’ companies (64 per cent) have means by which they attempt to capture information about the ethnic backgrounds of individuals in their companies. However, only a fifth (20 per cent) publicly disclose the data about BAME individuals whilst over half (59 per cent) say they either do not use or rarely use the data to inform their initiatives regarding employees.

The research further found that HR may not be tracking data about the progression of BAME talent in their organisation. When asked about this question, almost half of HR Directors (42 per cent) refused to answer, raising the question of whether there is a hesitance to disclose this information to senior leadership.

Another key area that needs focus is receiving leadership support and buy-in for BAME talent. HR directors reported that convincing leaders to actively invest in BAME career advancement was “difficult and requires energy”. This group was also more likely to refer to senior management as “resistant to change”.

The research also stated more focus should be placed on prioritising BAME alongside other diversity strands. Under half of D&I practioners stated that their companies had introduced initiatives aimed directly at addressing the progression of BAME talent. Many of the respondents felt other issues such as gender and LGBTQ+ initiatives had “edged out” issues linked to BAME employees.

Finally, the report pushed for including BAME voices in leadership spaces. A quarter of HRDs (25 per cent) stated that they had no BAME members on their company board. Additionally, every single HR Director asked confessed that BAME employees represent less than 11 per cent of senior executive or leadership teams.

The research found that this may be the case due to a significant lack of representation for BAME employees at the lower levels of the organisation, meaning more must be done to create a pipeline of BAME talent.

To help progress employees from BAME backgrounds, the research recommended the following:

1.       The tone must be set from the top and connect to key performance indicators

2.       People managers must act responsibly and take accountability

3.       There should be alignment and stronger partnership inside organisations

4.       Map the journey – have a coherent and efficient strategy to achieve better outcomes for ethnic minority retention and progression

5.       Normalise discussions about race and establish a shared vocabulary.

Sophie Chandauka, Global COO of Shared Services and Banking Operations at Morgan Stanley and co-founder of the BBBAwards, states:

We have seen many charters and pledges signed and publicised over the last year, but pledging is no longer enough. As we begin this new year, senior leaders will need to surgically diagnose their HR data to identify practices and bad actors that produce differentiated outcomes for ethnic minority professionals when it comes to high profile work allocation, mobility opportunities, talent ranking, compensation and promotion. The Middle provides strategic recommendations for cultural and organisational change. There is no quick fix; organisations must commit to the journey in order to provide assurance to shareholders and other stakeholders that deep work is being done to drive meaningful change urgently.

Melanie Eusebe, co-founder of the BBBAwards, said:

As we enter into the New Year, we are calling on company Chairs, CEOs and HR Directors to identify practices that must be stopped to avoid exacerbating issues and reinforcing barriers for minority ethnic talent progression. There is no better time to begin speaking openly about race, which is the first step towards addressing the problem.


This research was obtained from the Black British Business Awards’ report ‘The Middle: Progressing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Talent in the workplace through collaborative action”.

Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.