Sandra Kerr: What can employers do to address Bame inequality in the workplace?

Sandra Kerr

Responsible employers are inclusive employers. However, for a variety of reasons, inequality persists among UK employers, with many people from black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) backgrounds still underemployed, underpromoted and under-represented at senior levels, as detailed in Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith review, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in February 2017.

Businesses need to take real action to tackle racial disparities in their pay, progression and recruitment practices.

One in four UK primary school and secondary school children, and one in eight of the working-age population, have Bame backgrounds, but this drops to only one in 10 in the workplace, according to Race at the top, published by Business in the Community (BITC) in June 2014. The pyramid narrows even further, with only one in 16 at senior level.

Organisations need to show an ongoing commitment to square this pyramid. The Race at work 2018 scorecard report, published by BITC in October 2018, highlighted that there is still more to do; only 33% of organisations reported having an executive sponsor for race, diversity and inclusion. Without this, it becomes much harder for organisations to set strategic aims with action plans and to meaningfully benchmark progress.

The need for sustained action at every level of business is why we launched the Race at Work Charter in 2018. It now has more than 170 signatories across a range of sectors in the UK.

Being a signatory publicly demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to five core principles: leadership; capturing data and publishing it; commitment at board level to zero tolerance on harassment and bullying; making diversity and inclusion the responsibility of all leaders and managers; and taking action that supports ethnic minority employees’ career progression.

Together, we can break down racial barriers at work, raise the aspirations and achievements of talented individuals, and deliver an enormous boost to the long-term economic position of the UK.

Sandra Kerr CBE is race equality director at Business in the Community