Are we in danger of passing the point of no return as BAME management gap grows?






Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE,  Director, Race for Opportunity

Race for Opportunity has today published the  ‘Race at the Top’ report on ethnicity and management. The report follows on from ‘Race to the Top’, which was published five years ago, and where we expressed concern that there was a significant gap between the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in management positions and their representation in the general population. In the report we warned that if government and businesses did not take action to address the situation, the gap would continue to get wider.

Unfortunately, the current situation is far worse than our predictions. Today’s report shows that the gap between BAME people and white people in top management positions has doubled between 2007 and 2012. Over the same period, the gap in management positions has also considerably widened. One in 10 of the working population comes from a BAME background, but BAME people make up just one in 16 top management jobs and one in 13 management roles. BAME leadership is also disproportionately skewed towards certain sectors and against specific ethnic groups – three-quarters of BAME managers are concentrated in just three industries, and the number of black/ black British managers has dropped by 42% since 2007. BAME managers are particularly under-represented in government, the civil service and the legal sector.

Unless action is taken now, very little will change. That’s why Race for Opportunity is calling for a government review into racial barriers in the workplace, similar to the Lord Davies review into gender, and for two words - ‘and race’ - to be added to the UK Corporate Governance Code. This government-led action will be a powerful force for creating change, and without it the current intake of BAME workers will be unable to progress equally and fairly compared to their white counterparts.  Another review that could be considered is one similar to the approach taken by the Women and Business Council with a focus on race and ethnicity.

The campaign is also calling on employers in all sectors to do more to attract and retain BAME workers and ensure equal progression, and we make recommendations in the report to support them in this.

By 2051, one in five of the UK population will come from a BAME background – representing a scale of spending power and voting power that politicians and businesses cannot afford to ignore. By taking action to address the lack of BAME representation now, we will create role models the next generation can identify with and build businesses and governments that truly reflect the multicultural communities they operate in and serve.

Now is the time for politicians and business leaders to take urgent action in this area, so that in five years’ time we can decisively say that the management gap has closed. If they do not, we are in danger of passing the point of no return.