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Top UK boards flatlining in ethnic minority hirings, reveals Green Park

Britain’s biggest private, public and third sector organisations are making no progress in appointing more ethnic minority leaders to their boards, despite a wealth of suitable, proven candidates, research from Green Park has revealed.


Green Park’s fourth annual BAME 100 Business Leaders index, published today, identifies the best of Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) board-ready talent, who could help organisations meet Sir John Parker’s government-endorsed target - to have at least one minority member on every major public, private or third sector board. 


Yet despite pressure from the government, shareholders, stakeholders and consumers, the number of British BAME board directors has flatlined over the last year. This suggests that the UK’s boards are either failing to take a rigorous, wide-ranging search for diverse candidates or are actually averse to appointing more than a consistently small minority of BAME directors.  


Since the first BAME 100 index was launched three years ago, 28 of the 178 leaders shortlisted have been appointed to 30 new board roles, with Green Park responsible for 10 per cent of these appointments. However, after taking into account board directors who have relinquished their roles, moved abroad or have passed away, there has been a net gain of just one new British BAME board member across all three sectors in the last three years – showing that new ethnic minority appointments are barely enough to keep up with the normal rate of attrition rather than actually increasing in number.


Trevor Phillips, Green Park’s chairman, said, “Despite the clear, long-established evidence that organisations which are diverse and inclusive perform better than those that aren’t, the UK’s private, public and third sector boards remain overwhelmingly white. Some claim this is due to a shortage of board-ready BAME individuals. But as this year’s BAME 100 Business Leaders Index clearly demonstrates, the talent is out there – and in greater numbers than ever.


“On this evidence, it’s difficult not to conclude that in contrast to the improvement in attitudes to gender diversity, when it comes to ethnicity, the UK’s boards are operating a ‘one in, one out’ policy. The old excuses that ‘we can’t find them’ and ‘they aren't qualified’ clearly no longer hold water. Private sector board chairs and their nominations committees in particular have to do better if UK plc is going to cope with the challenge of selling Britain to the world.”


Research for the Harvard Business Review reveals that female leaders who have gained board experience are more likely to be placed in CEO roles at publicly listed US companies, helping increase the number of women in top roles. One of the aims of Green Park’s Index is to similarly provide Britain’s ethnic minority leaders with the same board level experience which would lead to an increase in the number of ethnic minority CEOs at Britain’s top organisations.


Phillips called on the Government to speed up implementation of mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting in a similar way to the current gender pay gap reporting regime. “Monitoring and reporting ethnic pay gaps at our top organisations will throw a light on progress in appointing BAME leaders. It’s helped increase the number of women at senior levels and the new government should not drop the ball on taking the same positive approach to ethnic pay gap reporting,” he added.


The BAME 100 Business Leaders index was drawn up by an independent assessment panel, made up of leading figures from some of the best-known and highly successful private, public & third sector organisations in the UK, all of whom regularly make these judgements and appointment decisions.


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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