Black employees hold just 1.5 per cent of senior roles, research reveals

Proportion of black individuals in the top jobs in UK business has increased by 0.1 percentage points since 2014, and remained static in the public sector

Black employees hold just 1.5 per cent of top management roles in the UK private sector, research has found; a figure that has increased just 0.1 percentage points since 2014.

A Business in the Community (BITC) report, Race at the Top: Revisited, found just 54,900 of the 3.9 million managers, directors and senior officials in the UK are black.

According to the report, there has been even less progress on black representation in the public sector, where the number of black employees in leadership roles remained static at 1 per cent over the same period.

It found just 1 per cent of the police force across England and Wales identified as black African or black Caribbean, and none of the 39 appeal court judges in England and Wales were black.

The proportion of top private sector roles held by employees with black, asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds has increased by little over 1 percentage point, rising from 9.2 per cent of all senior positions in 2014 to 10.3 per cent today.

Sandra Kerr, race director at BITC, said the figures made clear black people continued to be under-represented at a senior level. She added that “lack of diverse leadership has a direct impact on decision-making”.

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“This is more crucial than ever when the evidence shows that BAME people continue to be disproportionately affected by Covid-19,” she said. “Black livelihoods matter and employers need to take urgent action to ensure that their organisation is inclusive and a place where people of any ethnic background can thrive and succeed.”

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said under-representation of black people in senior roles was an issue demanding “immediate attention” from employers. “Numerous studies have highlighted the issue of a lack of ethnic diversity at the top of UK business, but we are still not seeing progress at the pace required,” she said.

Miller advised employers to “scrutinise their policies, processes, the way the organisation operates and how people behave to identify and remove barriers to both entry and progression for ethnic minority employees”.

“Words of support for change are not enough,” she said. “Employers need to articulate a firm stance on racism and discrimination and follow that up with action.”

The publication of BITC’s report coincides with Windrush Day today (22 June), which marks 72 years since Caribbean workers arrived in the UK on the HMT Empire Windrush ship.

Separately, in a letter published in yesterday’s Sunday Times, 29 business leaders, including the bosses of Tesco, John Lewis and ITV, said more needed to be done to address the lack of ethnic diversity at the top of British businesses.

The letter’s signatories called for an end to the “cycle of disengagement and inaction” on the topic, and said “the sad truth is that organisations have not been ready to have a challenging and frank conversation about systemic racism within the four walls of their own offices”. It included a pledge to set targets to improve BAME representation at all levels of their respective companies.