Campaign Aims

Race for Opportunity, the race campaign from Business in the Community.

Race for Opportunity stands for:

  • Diverse leadership on boards and at senior level.
  • Diverse representation and progression in the workplace
  • Ensure all recruitment processes are free from racial bias

Pink triangle highlighting statistics of BAME people in society













The image above depicts the Race for Opportunity vision of squaring the pyramid so that there is a more balanced representation of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people at all levels within a workforce and the organisation proportionately reflects the communities in which it operates and is better able to serve an increasingly diverse and global customer base, and to develop policies for the UK’s diverse landscape of stakeholders.

  • The base of the pyramid - 1 in 4 children in primary  and secondary schools are from a BAME group or heritage
  • The centre level of the pyramid - 1 in 8 of the UK workforce is from a BAME background. 
  • The top of the pyramid - 1 in16 current FTSE 100 board members are from a BAME background (this includes a high volume of international appointments).


1. Increased race diversity at Board, senior executive and management levels.

RfO want to see 'Race at the Top'

Currently in the FTSE 100 there are only 62 directorships held by individuals coming from non-European backgrounds of which only 8 are British Nationals. The overall proportion of ethnic minority male and female directors in the FTSE 100 is 5.7%¹   There are low levels of ethnic minority people across the wider sector of society for example in education, Judiciary, Civil Service and in government.

What we want employers to do:

  • Ask search consultants for a diverse slate of potential candidates with a minimum of 12% black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).
  • Senior leaders to engage in reciprocal/reverse mentoring of someone from a diverse cultural background and/or host a mentoring circle event for a diverse group of 8-10 employees where they can share the story of their journey to the top.  Take a look at the RfO Mentoring Portal>>
  • Appoint a leader at board or at executive level as senior sponsor with responsibility for promoting action on race and diversity

In addition to the research, resources, toolkits and best practice available at Race for Opportunity Boards & Leadership, the campaign can connect businesses with additional charities and voluntary organisations as required through its affiliation with the Department for Work and Pensions Ethnic Minority Employment Stakeholder Group (EMESG) which is chaired by Sandra Kerr OBE, National Director of Race for Opportunity.

The Business Case

Recent research (November 2014) from McKinsey & Company shows that companies in the top quartile for gender and race diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.  The research also reported that McKinsey and Company believes that more diverse companies are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction and decision making.
Learn more about the research from McKinsey & Company Diversity Matters


2. Diverse representation and progression of BAME people in the workplace.

RfO want to see UK workplaces reflect the UK ethnic minority talent pool.

There are just over 40 million people in the UK working-age population of which 5.1 million or 13% are from an ethnic minority background.²
In the UK, employment rates are disproportionate – latest figures from the Labour Force Survey (July - September 2014) shows the overall employment rate  as 73.2% compared to only 62.4% for BAME people – an employment rate gap of 10.8 percentage points.

The rate of unemployment for ethnic minorities is particularly disproportionate, at Q3 2014:

  • The UK ethnic minority unemployment rate was 11.4% compared to 6.5% for people overall.
  • Pakistani People had the highest unemployment rate out of all ethnic groups at 15%, for white people this stood at 5.6%.
  • People from the Black ethnic minority group had the second highest unemployment rate at 14.6% followed closely by the ‘mixed ethnicity’ group at 14.3%.
  • In the UK workplace, ethnic minority representation at different levels of management is disproportionate:
  • Only 1 in 13⁵ people from an ethnic minority background are in a management position even though they account for 1 in 8 employees in the workplace.  

In 2011 ethnic minorities accounted for 14.1% of the total population and this has been predicted to rise to 20% by 2051⁷.
Currently 1 in 5 pupils in secondary school education and 1 in 4⁹ children in primary school education in the UK is from an ethnic minority group. 

What do we want employers to do?

Recruitment and attraction:

  • Ask search consultants/recruitment agencies for diverse lists of candidates with a minimum of 12% Ethnic Minority people within the talent pool options.
  • Run ‘pre-application’ events or similar for diverse groups to further prospective candidates’ understanding of the application and recruitment process
  • Ensure interview panels to have ethnic minority representation when possible
  • Track the progress of all job applicants throughout the recruitment process by ethnicity and use this data to help them identify any potential barriers to recruitment and changes that need to be made
  • Set clear and current objectives for recruitment of BAME talent  and set key performance indicators and use them to check and demonstrate their success in attracting and recruiting BAME candidates of both sexes
  • Employers should mandate unconscious bias training to those with interviewing and recruitment  responsibilities

RfO Advice: Take a look at RfO Diversity Recruitment Guide>>

Development, retention and progression

  • To monitor their workforce by ethnicity and management level and where sufficient numbers are available segment by ethnicity categories as defined in the 2011 Census.
  • To track participation of minority ethnic employees on development training programmes, apprenticeships and internships to ensure there is balanced take up from all ethnic groups.
    Ensure that leadership and development programmes are actively promoted to eligible minority ethnic employees
  • Ensure that talent pipelines are actively monitored and the progression rate of minority ethnic employees is known
  • Use selection criteria that is transparent and can be viewed by all employees
  • Review assessment methods that impact on reward and recognition to ensure all bias is eliminated
  • Actively encourage an inclusive culture where senior leaders sponsor ethnic minority talented employees

RfO Advice: Take a look at the Bridging the Value Gap Toolkit>>


3. Ensure all recruitment processes are free from racial bias– remove bias from all stages of recruitment and take steps to attract diverse talent

RfO want to see the balanced inclusion of minority ethnic young people in the workforce and in apprenticeships.

There were just over 7 million young people in the working-age population of which just over 1 million or 14% were from an ethnic minority background .However, the rates of unemployment for young ethnic minorities aged 16 - 24 years old are disproportionate:

  • Whilst the unemployment rate for white youth stood at 20.0%  this is more than double for youths from the black ethnic groups (Black African, Black Caribbean, Black Other) at 44.4%.
  • Pakistani and Bangladesh youth have an unemployment rate of 33.6% followed closely by youth from the 'mixed' race group at 30.4%.
  • Only Chinese and Indian youth had an unemployment rate similar to white youths at 22.0% and 24.2% respectively.
  • The ethnic minority youth unemployment rate was 31.4%, compared to 21.2% for young people overall.

What do we want employers to do?

  • Monitor and engage in action to reduce youth unemployment.
  • Prepare pre-internship events, apprenticeships, pre-application, sector or career based workshops and work-ready support for young people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Endeavour to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates so that they can enhance the quality their applications in the future.
  • To mobilise and support their employees to be involved in reciprocal mentoring of young people between ages 16-24 via employee networks and as part of their wider CR commitment to employee volunteering programmes and initiatives ensuring that 20% of young people are BAME.

RfO Advice:   Learn more about the work of the RfO Youth Advisory Panel >>


[1] Labour Force Survey Q1 - Q4 2011 4 Quarter Average (ages 16 - 64 Great Britain)
[3] Labour Force Survey Q1 - Q4 2011 4 Quarter Average (ages 16 - 64 Great Britain)
[4] The Equalities Review : Fairness and Freedom - The Final Report of the Equalities Review, February 2007
[5] RfO research report ‘Race at the Top’, 2014
6] RfO research report 'Race into Higher Education', January 2010
[7] University of Leeds Working Paper  10/2 ‘Ethnic Population Projections for the UK and Local Areas, 2001-2051
[8] Department for Education (DfE) Statistical First Release (SFR) 12 2011 22 June 2011 - 'Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics, January 2011
[9] Department for Education (DfE) Statistical First Release (SFR) 12 2011 22 June 2011 - 'Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics, January 2011
10Labour Force Survey Q1 - Q4 2011 4 Quarter Average (ages 16 - 64 Great Britain)
11Labour Force Survey Q1 - Q4 2011 4 Quarter Average (ages 16 - 24 Great Britain)