Impact Felt by Stephen Lawrence Case

Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE, Campaign Director, Race for Opportunity

There was a national sigh of relief when Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted for the murder of Stephen Lawrence earlier this year.  At last.  It seems appropriate to reflect on what has been achieved on race relations in the UK since that day in 1993. 

The legacy of the Stephen Lawrence and the Macpherson enquiry has been significant change in how the Metropolitan police force and other police forces around the country engage with local communities. The case forced the Met to reassess its approach to institutional racism and, as a direct result, the Met has put a concerted effort into diversity, so that it is far more reflective of the diverse community it serves.   There is still more to be done.  A black person is 27 times more likely to be stopped than a white person, perpetuating a "them" and "us" attitude between the police and the local communities. Scotland Yard's recently announced intention to reform its use of stop and search of people without suspicion is to be welcomed.  

The current shape of equality legislation was heavily influenced by the recommendations of the Macpherson report.  Business in the Community’s Race for Opportunity campaign will continue to work with all our members to take on learning and best practice as the equality duties now change. 

Without a doubt, more can always be done to improve recruitment and career progression paths of BAME individuals.  Our research on recruitment, which we are launching on the 9th February, will have clear recommendations for employers, candidates and recruitment agencies which we intend to have an impact.  Following on from our Race to Progress research, where we set out the barriers to progression that BAME people face at work, our next piece of research, Race and Recruitment, will expose the challenges in the recruitment process.   Watch this space!  

There is also learning for employers on how to retain, develop and progress people once they are through the door.  It is useful to look at employee engagement scores by diverse ethnic group to identify if all of employees are feeling valued and included to the same level.  It is vital to review if employees feel valued by their line managers and have access to the right training and development opportunities to enable them to be effective in their job roles.  Analysing differences in these results can provide powerful indicators that highlight where potential problems may exist so action can be taken, as well as be a great way to spotlight areas where there have been real improvements. 

Race for Opportunity has a clear purpose.  Currently, when you look at the diversity of UK boardrooms, one out of 16 members are from an ethnic minority background. If you look at the overall workforce, it’s one out of eight, and if you look at schools it’s one out of four. The challenge for Race for Opportunity in 2012 is how to square that pyramid – how to ensure we consistently reflect the diverse population that we have in the UK at every level in employment. 

I believe that the strength of the Lawrence family has shifted how we see race in this country.  The impact will be felt for generations to come.