UK firms ‘should do more to promote minority groups’

A UK government-backed review of the career prospects of black and minority ethnic groups reports that while members are more likely to have a degree, there is a higher chance they will be in low skilled and low paid jobs.

Helping black and minority ethnic (BME) people to progress in their careers at the same rate as their white colleagues could boost the UK economy by up to £24bn (US$30bn/€28bn) each year, it reports. People from BME backgrounds represent 14% of the UK’s working-age population but only 10% of its workforce and 6% of top management positions.

The Race in the Workplace study was headed by Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith (pictured above), who recommends that companies with more than 50 staff publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band and also produce a five-year diversity target with a director appointed to oversee progress.

Baroness McGregor-Smith was born in India and in 2007 became the first Asian woman to run a FTSE 250 company when she took as chief executive officer (CEO) at outsourcing group Mitie, a position she held until last October. She reported that only 74 FTSE 100 companies had responded to her request for anonymised data on ethnicity by pay band and only half supplied meaningful information.

“The time for talk on race in the workplace is over, it’s time to act. No-one should feel unable to reach the top of any organisation because of their race, she commented. “If businesses and the government act on my recommendations, it will show everyone from a minority background that Britain’s workplace is for everyone not just the privileged few.

“The consequences of continuing to do nothing will be damaging to the economy and to the aspirations of so many.”

Edwin Morgan, deputy director of policy at the UK’s Institute of Directors (IoD), responded: “Encouraging companies to be more aware of diversity is no bad thing. If companies find reporting useful then they should consider it, but we don’t need another reporting requirement at the moment”.

A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “Small firms tend to be anchored in their local area and therefore to find and keep the best talent, they see the need to recruit from across all diverse elements of their local community. They do not need a whole new set of paperwork and checklists.”

The government’s response was also that it preferred a “business-led, voluntary approach and not legislation as a way of bringing about lasting change”. However, business minister Margot James said she will write to FTSE 350 company leaders to encourage them to take up the recommendations in the McGregor-Smith review, which also include providing “unconscious bias” training to all employees.


Related reading