Is Having a Race Action Plan Racist?






Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE, Director, Race for Opportunity 


A plan is simply a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.  If you have evidence of a lack of race equality or people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in your organisation, a plan to improve things is not only a good thing – it’s necessary.

The BBC’s plan to increase the number of people it employs from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds has come under fire this week, with one MP even accusing the strategy of being racist. I have to disagree with this. It is not racist to have a plan to address the under-representation of BAME employees within an organisation or sector. What it is about is rebalancing across the board and fairness.

Firstly, I would like to applaud the BBC for being aware of and tackling the under-representation of BAME employees within its workforce. Like all broadcasters, it has a duty to reflect the communities it broadcasts to – in front of and behind the camera – and I commend it for taking these positive steps to address this.

Philip Davies’ comments that the BBC’s senior figures presenting to him should give up their jobs for a black person are frankly ridiculous and completely miss the point. If an organisation had a social mobility plan that would not be called elitist – and this is no different.

Media cannot reflect society if society is not reflected in media..

- Creative Access

An action plan is about an employer making sure that recruitment and progression opportunities within their organisation are transparent, fair and equally available to everyone, regardless of their race, gender or socio-economic background, as well as the commitment to monitor, track progress and ensure that the organisation achieves its goals.  That means that employment opportunities must be genuinely accessible, and this requires a serious commitment to organisational and behavioural change – one that is driven by and actioned by senior leaders.

With a quarter of primary school children and one in eight of people of working age in the UK from a BAME background, this disconnect between our print and broadcast media and the communities it serves cannot continue. Last month, our Race at the Top report found that in 2013 94% of journalists were white, a decrease of just 2% in 10 years. That is painfully slow progress, and it’s why we need employers to tackle the situation now and we have made a number of recommendations on how they can achieve this. In my view, it’s not rocket science – but it does need leadership and commitment.

This is about attraction, school outreach, recruitment and approaches to progression, not continuing the current status quo of like for like in recruitment and progressions.

In Race at the Top we quoted a phrase from the Creative Access organisation that says it all: “Media cannot reflect society if society is not reflected in media.” The BBC understands this and has identified the gaps and is taking active steps to reduce them; now it’s up to all broadcasters and news outlets to take action and do the same.