Ethnic diversity in top companies improves

Progress is gradually being made by ethnic minorities at the UK’s top companies as more move up the management funnel, but many still do not offer a fair representation of British society according to a study by Green Park.

The executive search firm has released its latest Leadership 10,000 report analysing the backgrounds of those holding the top 20 roles within the UK’s major corporates including chief executives (CEOs), chief financial officers (CFOs) and chairmen, as well as the next 100 most senior roles in FTSE 100-listed companies.

The report finds that ethnic diversity within the leadership pipeline at FTSE 100 companies has increased to 5%, the highest level for four years.

However, 58% of the main boards at these companies have no ethnic minority presence, despite a recommendation in the UK government’s Parker Review published last November that no FTSE 100 board should be exclusively white by 2020. The latest figure represents only a slight improvement on the 62 companies that recorded all-white main boards in last year’s report.

The firm also reports worrying signs that previous progress and momentum could be starting to reverse.

“While the pipeline is improving there remains a question over whether minorities can break through the glass ceiling, as the top roles in companies remain a closed shop for ethnic minority and female leaders,” comments Green Park. “There has been a decrease of 18% in the number of ethnic minorities holding positions at chair, CEO and CFO level in FTSE 100 companies.

“There remains no female ethnic minority CEO or CFO in the FTSE 100 and women still only hold 6% of the top 300 jobs. Looking at the ethnicity of the 21 chair, CEO and CFO positions held by women in the FTSE, 20 are white. White women are twice as likely to reach the top three positions in a FTSE 100 company compared to an ethnic minority male and 20 times more likely than an ethnic minority female.”

The analysis also highlights the companies that outperform their FTSE100 peers in terms of diversity. InterContinental Hotels Group is the top performing FTSE 100 company in Green Park’s rankings for gender and ethnic diversity, followed by banking group Standard Chartered and the Anglo-Dutch consumer products specialist Unilever.

“In a world where access to top talent from abroad may be increasingly limited, it would be foolish for major enterprises to continue to ignore talent from underrepresented groups,” said Raj Tulsiani, CEO of Green Park.

“The reduction in female leaders in so many industry sectors is a worrying trend, especially as it coincides with the first rise in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in four years. Given the need for greater cultural empathy in a post- Brexit Britain being able to move forward sustainably will become an increasingly important element of brand trust in the eyes of the public, regulators and institutional investors.

“What we are seeing is a trend to ‘tick the boxes’ in diversity recruitment. FTSE companies have had initiatives to improve gender diversity on the board, but now appear to be focusing more on improving their pipelines of future leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The organisations that succeed will adopt a more inclusive overall recruitment strategy, rather than addressing each initiative in isolation.”

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