Focus on gender diversity seen as a barrier to ethnic diversity

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Full inclusion of BAME people in the workforce could add £24 billion per year to the UK economy

Four in 10 companies see gender diversity as a barrier to BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) diversity, according to research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the British Academy of Management (BAM).

Delivering Diversity, which used information collected from 24 FTSE 100 leaders and 26 lived experience interviews, found that while 75% of those companies now set progression targets for gender diversity and 71% publish related data, only 21% do so on ethnic diversity. Four in 10 (42%) thought that this focus on gender detracted attention from BAME equality.

However, leaders indicated there were other challenges. Almost a third (29%) of those polled said they were worried about discussing racial diversity issues for fear of using the wrong terminology, and 8% felt their efforts were being hampered by middle managers.

The report cites previous research that found full BAME inclusion in the workforce could add £24 billion per year to the UK economy.

Cary Cooper, president of BAM, said that employers were letting BAME people down. “Although C-suite executives talk a good game on the need for diversity they fail to action it in management roles throughout their organisations,” he said. “British business has made some strides in pushing the glass ceiling for women but has failed to do the same for BAME communities, despite an abundance of research showing that diverse management teams deliver higher shareholder value and enhanced performance.

“Now is the time for action, before legislative action will inevitably take place. Diversity is good for work and is good for business.”

Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs for the CMI, also said employers could do better. “Too many leaders have been silent on race and ethnicity and it is time for change,” she said. “The progress we’ve started to see on gender diversity shows how business can build momentum on the issue.

“We need to learn from what works, which means committed leadership from the top and from managers at every level, much better data on diversity throughout the management pipeline, and more transparency about progress. We have to keep a spotlight on the issue.”

The CMI and BAM are calling on employers to take action. They suggest:

  • Break the silence. Leaders need to reboot the conversation on race, show commitment, and communicate a clear business case for change.
  • Learn from the gender agenda. Business has shown that it can generate momentum to make change happen. There should be inclusive leadership at all levels and transparency about strategies, targets and progress.
  • Face the numbers: measure it, manage it, report it. Companies need to measure BAME diversity at every level of the management pipeline.
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