POSTED: September 15 2017
Ethnic minority leaders believe there is institutional prejudice in the UK workforce

Ethnic minority leaders believe there is institutional prejudice in the UK workforce

Two-thirds of ethnic minority leaders do not believe that there will be any improvement in minority representation at board levels due to institutional racism.

According to research published in Green Park’s report ‘Changing the Face of Tomorrow’s Leaders: Increasing Ethnic Minority Representation in Leadership’, 82% of ethnic minority leaders believe there is institutional prejudice within their organisations and as a result do not trust their employers.


While there is a feeling of discontent amongst minority leaders, 60% do agree that institutional racism has moved up the organisational agenda in recent months but when it comes to tackling the issue of racism many companies fail to find appropriate dialogue and language with two-thirds stating that the language that is used is emotive and makes people uncomfortable.


The root of the problem seems to lie in the fact that only 2% of companies surveyed met their identified ethnic minority board level representation targets. There seems to be no resolution in the near future as over a fifth (22%) of firms admitted they were unaware of the current progress towards diversity targets and a further 18% had no idea where to start in order to promote diversity.


More than one in ten (13%) have an ethnic diversity target but no strategy in place to meet the target and 9% have made the erroneous decision to replicate their gender diversity strategy.


There is little hope for the future as two-thirds (66%) do not believe that there will be significant improvement in ethnic minority representation at board level in two years’ time. There are a few who hold out hope for improvement in representation as a fifth (20%) believe change could happen but only with direct intervention from the Government. This would require an overhaul in attitudes and beliefs within the Government in order to introduce an interventionist labour market policy.


It would seem that underdeveloped pipelines/strategies are the biggest barrier to addressing the lack of representation on boards, followed by a lack of accountability in recruitment supply chain and a lack of commitment to diversity. The study found that ethnic minority leaders often felt recruiters lacked the desire to look for and create value propositions for “unusual suspects”.


Talking openly about the dangers of institutional racial prejudice and addressing it appears to be taboo in the UK workforce. The ethnic minority leaders do not believe that racial prejudice is innate as nearly three-quarters of those surveyed believed it was unconscious, therefore putting the onus on companies to provide educational programmes to help people understand these biases and how to overcome them.

“Diversity must be a central objective of any recruitment or talent management strategy.” Raj Tulsiani, CEO of Green Park, explains. “This isn’t an issue of political correctness; it is an issue of ensuring firms draw upon the largest possible talent pool, benefitting from the breadth of experience and expertise of a diverse workforce. We need much greater diversity at board level as a matter of urgency, there is no point having programmes at entry level ensuring greater diversity if these candidates become quickly disillusioned if they see a ‘ceiling’ they will not be able to break through.”

The report makes key recommendations for organisations to help them tackle the issue:


  • Lead change from the top: Diversity is not something the CEO should hand to a Human Resources Director to “sort out,” this strategy has been shown to be ineffective. Equality and workforce diversity must become a board level issue, with the executive publicly and regularly showing support. This is borne out in the research, which showed 84% of ethnic minority leaders want stronger leadership from the top on diversity and inclusion initiatives.


  • Optimise the supply chain: If organisations want to ensure they are reaching diverse candidates, they need to work with suppliers with lived experience and credibility that diverse candidates already trust.


  • Create your own talent map and pipelines: Recruiters should be tasked with isolating talent pools, internally and externally. There is a need to create programmes to engage and progress diverse talent and regular reporting is required to ensure representation is proportionally maintained.


  • Tackle the difficult conversations on race and difference: Organisations must be open and accountable, making top down public and transparent commitments to change and place people in charge of delivering this, including the board, executive and supply chain. People need to take greater accountability, 64% of ethnic minority leaders say currently there is no organisational accountability for failed diversity initiatives.


  • Collect data: The research found that 78% of firms have no ethnic minority leadership targets within their organisations. It is imperative to know where diverse talent sits in an organisation and the concordance between their views and those of its customers to be truly able to ensure equal opportunity for development and progression.

Ken Olisa OBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London and Board Member of DRIVE, concludes: “It self-evidently gives competitive advantage to have customers, suppliers and regulators reflected in an organisation’s workforce – from top to bottom. By confusing the hard objective of competitive advantage with the soft one of social justice people find discussing diversity uncomfortable -especially in the boardroom where many are worried their language will be perceived as racist. Tackling this is a business imperative and not an HR policy.”



This article was written by Kimberley Dondo and was first published in Reward. You can see the original article here.