The BBC IS doing the right thing

Sandra Kerr OBE responds to accusations that the BBC is racist. 

In the last few days the BBC has been accused of racism over allegations that two junior scriptwriting roles were advertised as only being open to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) applicants. The BBC responded by saying that the roles were training and development opportunities which aimed to address under-representation of BAME people in script writing and editing.

Employers are allowed to offer training and development opportunities to under-represented groups within their organisation – which can include women and disabled people as well as those from BAME backgrounds – under the Equality Act 2010, provided the roles are not full-time permanent positions. This type of positive action also explains why employers can offer things like employee network groups, bespoke training and fast-track programmes which are only open to particular groups of people where there is a clear lack of representation at the top of the organisation. One in 16 senior roles in public and private sector organisations are held by someone from a BAME background that is in stark contrast to the one in eight in the working age population.  And this gap has not be closing but widening.  It is obvious that a step change in action is needed to see the steepness of this pyramid reduced. Many of these types of programmes have been finalists and winners in the Business in the Community Race Equality Awards and offer examples of good practice for employers who want to improve BAME recruitment and progression and is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Our recent Race at Work survey told us that there was a huge appetite for fast-track opportunities from BAME employees in the UK. Development programmes are also vital for removing blocks in the talent pipeline. We hear so much about people struggling to get jobs without experience, yet being unable to get experience because they need a job. How can we unblock pipelines and have people from diverse backgrounds with the skills for these roles if they don’t get a chance to develop them and fully realise their potential? By recognising people may need support to gain access to experience and opportunity means we can improve representation in these types of roles, particularly in the media where BAME representation remains disappointingly low.

With this and other development programmes, the BBC is doing the right thing. More people from diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experience results in greater opportunities for innovation and creativity in the workforce. Building diversity in the pipeline at all levels within an organisation has never been more important.  I would encourage other employers to think about how they can create openings which will give people from BAME groups the opportunities to gain experience, demonstrate their potential and skills and in turn enable them to apply for jobs in the future. Action is needed otherwise the under-representation of BAME people in the creative sector – and in other industries – will not change.