‘Urgent action’ needed on lack of black people in senior roles

The proportion of black people in senior management roles has barely moved since 2014

Black people hold just 1.5% of leadership positions across the public and private sector in the UK, according to research from Business in the Community.

This has barely changed since 2014, when the proportion of black people in leadership positions was 1.4%, despite the fact that black people make up more than 3% of the population in England and Wales.

BITC’s Race at the Top report looked at senior professional roles in the UK encompassing politics, journalism, charities, civil service and the judiciary.

The proportion of black people in senior roles in the public sector was static at 1%, an increase of just 0.1% since 2014. Almost two-thirds (62%) of charity boards are all-white, BITC found.

Just 1% of the police force identifies as black African or black Caribbean, and there are no appeal court judges who are black (out of 39).

Representation has improved in politics, where there are currently 65 MPs in the UK who are Black, Asian or Minority ethnicity (BAME), compared with 27 in 2010. BITC points out, however, that there are no black Cabinet ministers.

Only 1% of journalists, senior civil servants, judges, academics and the police force are black.

Sandra Kerr CBE, race director at BITC, said: “Twenty-five years on from the Business in the Community’s Race Equality Campaign being launched, it is clear that black people continue to be under-represented at a senior level.

“This lack of diverse leadership has a direct impact on decision-making. This is more crucial than ever when the evidence shows that BAME people continue to be disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

“Black livelihoods matter and employers need to take urgent action to ensure that their organisation is inclusive and a place where people of any ethnic background can thrive and succeed.”

This weekend, a group of business leaders wrote a letter to the Sunday Times in which they pledged to set diversity targets for every job vacancy in a bid to improve BAME representation.

The letter, signed by leaders such as Dave Lewis, chief executive of Tesco, Penny James, chief executive of insurer Direct Line Group, and Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at consulting firm PwC, said “this cycle of inaction and disengagement must end”.

“As business leaders, we need to talk about white privilege. We need to talk about racism. We need to talk about the role we have played in maintaining this system for so long.

“Finally, we need to talk about how we will change. By signing this letter, we pledge to set targets for diverse candidate slates for every vacancy in our companies. Now is the time to act.”

The findings of the BITC research echo those of another report published last week.

A team from the University of Bristol, University of Manchester and the National Centre for Social Research looked at census data between 1971 and 2011, and found that employment prospects for BAME individuals had barely moved since the 1970s.

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