Employers Struggle to Increase Ethnic Diversity in Top Jobs

Race for Opportunity suggests that a Davies-style review into racial barriers is needed.

Racial inequality in UK management has widened almost to the “point of no return” according to figures from Business in the Community’s race equality campaign, Race for Opportunity.

The number of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in top management positions fell by 22 per cent over a five-year period, doubling the gap between the number of BAME people and white people in similar roles.

10 per cent of the UK’s working population is from an ethnic minority background, and yet BAME people hold only one in 16 top management positions, and one in 13 management positions.

The report, ‘Race at the Top – 5 years on’ gives a comprehensive picture of BAME representation in leadership in UK business today. Despite a definitive call for action in 2007, the latest numbers suggest there has been little progress over the last five years and “in fact, the situation is far worse than we predicted”, the report stated.

Key findings show stark differences in success rates and sector representation, with the Black/Black British population in top management positions taking the greatest hit, decreasing by 42 per cent over a five-year period.

Many UK sectors also continue to be closed off to BAME people when it comes to leadership opportunities, with construction, media and political sectors mostly headed by white employees.

However, banking and finance was highlighted as the sector “getting it right” when it came to career progression. The number of managers from all but one ethnic group increased between 2007 and 2012.

Perhaps surprisingly, the ‘other services’ sector category, which includes SMEs, had the second fastest growth rate of BAME managers, a 51 per cent increase between 2007 and 2012.

But experts questioned whether BAME people are choosing to start new businesses as a matter of preference, or whether it is necessary, as there is very little opportunity to progress in the more traditional industries.

BITC is calling for greater action from the government to ensure ethnic minorities progress into management positions at the same pace as the general working population.

“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,” said Sandra Kerr, Race for Opportunity director.

“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,” she added.

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2 thoughts on “Employers Struggle to Increase Ethnic Diversity in Top Jobs

  1. Esi Nedo

    Employers need to acknowledge that the employment process for people of ethnicity begins with the name of the candidate on the CV application.

    Despite Diversity and Equality initiatives, prejudice during the paper sift cannot be monitored. If a name cannot be pronounced or seems ethnic, the CV will often end up in the shredder. This is a simple fact. For this reason, HR officials and recruiters on the frontline need an overhaul of their ingrained mind-sets. They are paid to use their expertise to read between the lines to discover talent rather than skin colour.

    The ethnic job application process has further disadvantages. For example while such a candidate may be 100% capable, they often do not have the financial resources to invest in professional qualifications like an MBA at places like the renowned Cranfield University School of Management (£35K). The “Professional Qualification” section on a form may often have to be left blank, resulting in the perception that the candidate does not meet the stringent criteria.

    I readily admit that I also put myself at a disadvantage. I do not think I am alone in being paranoid about completing online ethnic diversity “monitoring” forms. This may seem like an irrational concern but it is real and I have personally abandoned applications with uncharacteristic defeatism when my application cannot progress if I choose not to state my age, ethnicity etc. Employers need to understand that from an “ethnic” perspective this requirement seemingly provides further ammunition for an application to be rejected.

    Ironically, because we “ethnics” struggle so much harder than most in the pursuit of employment, we are invariably potentially going to be the most hardworking and loyal employees.

    It should also be noted that the constant automated job rejection emails e.g. “…there were other candidates with better skills than yours…” (or words to that effect) can destroy your soul and confidence. It is for this reason, I believe, that the “ethnic” candidate who makes it to the interview process, should be valued for their tenacity and resilience. More than likely they have had much more endless disappointment than their white counterparts. I don’t think it is surprising if an “ethnic” candidate seems defensive or guarded at an interview. This can be misconstrued but if you keep getting hurt you do need some armour. The rare occasion that you have the opportunity to walk into the interview room, when you take a peek into the offices you rarely see anyone who looks like you especially in big city firms. It is easy to assume, especially when your confidence is already battered, that you will NEVER get the job.

    Finally, software systems powered by Oracle like Taleo\Aplitrak need some serious investigation. Rumours abound that they keep data until eternity. Apparently, if you have applied for too many jobs, been rejected, not used the right key words, alluded to not being under 25 etc your scanned application is sent into cyber space forever and you are blacklisted. It is for this reason I no longer apply for jobs via LinkedIn or on any sites that use this software.

    In summary, applying for a job as a person of ethnicity means overcoming several hurdles ranging from discrimination before the start gun has been fired right up to very reasonable, but in many cases due to lack of money, unattainable Professional Qualification requirements. I don’t want allowances to be made on my behalf. I am confident of my skills. Consequently I have stopped crying into my coffee and acquired the skin of a Rhinoceros. “Fall down 7 times get up 8 times” is my mantra.

    1. Czarina Mangilinan Post author

      Thank you Esi I will post this up do you have any website so I can link you to it?


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