Top British companies unable or unwilling to publicise ethnic makeup of management

19 July 2017 -

Diverse Management TeamCMI calls on FTSE100 leaders to do more to actively champion greater diversity in their workforces

Matt Scott

British businesses must break their “silence” on the under-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME) in key roles, according to new research from CMI and the British Academy of Management.

Only 6% management jobs in the UK are held by minorities – less than half their proportion of the working-age population as a whole.

Yet new research finds that only 54% of FTSE100 leaders are seen to be actively championing greater diversity in their companies, with just one in five (21%) revealing their current diversity levels through published progression targets and data.

The new report – Delivering Diversity, released today, highlights that many companies lack clear information about the diversity of their management pipeline.

In fact, some 83% of the HR leaders surveyed admitted that they need better data on BAME diversity to drive improvements.

MI director of strategy Petra Wilton said: “Too many leaders have been silent on race and ethnicity and it’s time for change. The progress we’ve started to see on gender diversity shows how business can build momentum on the issue.

“We need to learn from what works, which means committed leadership from the top and from managers at every level, much better data on diversity throughout the management pipeline, and more transparency about progress. We have to keep a spotlight on the issue.”

The CMI-backed report found that 75% of the FTSE100 companies surveyed now set progression targets for gender and 71% publish related data; only 21% do so on BAME.

Just less than half (47%) of the rest say they expect to set targets on BAME over the coming year.

Minority Managers Questioning Their Corporate ‘Fit’

The research also found that many minority managers find themselves questioning how they are perceived to ‘fit’ within their company, while interviews conducted as part of the research found that BAME managers often perceive their businesses as “silent” about race and ethnicity.

Company norms and expectations about leaders still favour what one BAME manager described as “white middle class men from elite schools and universities, who tend to recruit people like them in their company”.

Businesses may therefore be missing out on a more diverse set of talented leaders, and businesses need to find more varied role models and more widespread use of powerful interventions like mentoring and sponsorship to promote diversity – something that could add as much as £24bn to the UK economy every year.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, President of the British Academy of Management, said now was the time for direct action, not just talk.

“Although C-suite executives talk a good game on the need for diversity, they fail to action it in management roles throughout their organisations,” he said. “British business has made some strides in pushing the glass ceiling for women but has failed to do the same for BAME communities, despite an abundance of research showing that diverse management teams deliver higher shareholder value and enhanced performance.

“Now is the time for action, before legislative action will inevitably take place. Diversity is good for work and is good business.”

CMI Race: Time to make a difference

In the wake of the research, CMI is developing a new network, CMI Race, to help managers across the UK deliver diversity.

The network will be chaired by Pavita Cooper, a CMI Companion who chaired the Delivering Diversity Research Advisory Board, and who is the founder of diversity and talent advisory firm More Difference.

he said: “This research shows that even today, in modern multicultural Britain, many managers still feel deeply nervous talking about race and ethnic diversity at work. Every manager in the UK should be able to talk about difference with their teams in an inclusive way, and we need to see far more leadership from senior business leaders on this issue. CMI’s new network, CMI Race, will put diversity and inclusion at the heart of good management and drive real change in the years ahead.”

Seven Steps for Action

  1. Break the silence. Leaders need to re-boot the conversation on race, show commitment and communicate a clear business case for change to deliver diversity.
  2. Learn from the gender agenda. Business has shown that it can generate momentum to make change happen, with inclusive leadership at all levels and transparency about strategies, targets and progress
  3. Face the numbers: measure it, manage it, report it. Companies need to measure BAME diversity at every level of the management pipeline.
  4. Tap into the power of sponsorship. Senior leaders need to actively seek out and meet diverse emerging leaders to sponsor them and support their development.
  5. Build diversity through ‘next up’ leadership. Role models and mentors at the next level up – not just remote role models at the top of business – can be powerful forces for change. Use innovative models like mentoring circles and reverse mentoring
  6. Be inclusive and adaptive. Build adaptive cultures that respond to the differences people bring to work. Make it clear that the company values difference so no minority employee is left questioning whether they fit in.
  7. Benchmark and collaborate. Businesses should compare performance with others in their sector and collaborate on ways to accelerate change.

The Delivering Diversity report, which includes case studies from leading companies like Aviva, Google, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Sainsbury’s, Schroders, and Virgin Money, is available at

CMI would like to thank the following authors for their contribution to the report:

  • Prof Nic Beech, Chair of BAM, Vice-Principal (Academic Planning and Performance), University of Dundee
  • Prof Nelarine Cornelius, BAM Council (Research and Publications), School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London
  • Dr Lisi Gordon, School of Management, University of St Andrews
  • Prof Geraldine Healy, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London
  • Prof Emmanuel Ogbonna, Cardiff University Business School
  • Dr Gurchathen Sanghera, School of International Relations, University of St Andrews
  • Chidozie Umeh, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London
  • Patrick Woodman, Head of Research and Advocacy, CMI
Powered by Professional Manager