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CBI Backs Review's Call To Increase Ethnic Representation On UK Boards

Posted on November 2, 2016 at 10:50 AM

It should not have taken this long, and it did not really need yet another piece of research to establish that ethnic diversity across UK boardrooms is "disproportionately low."

But this time it is a government-backed review, led by Sir John Parker, and it has immediately been backed by Britain's powerful business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Of the 1,087 director positions at firms in the FTSE 100 index, 8% are held by non-white directors, even though 14% of the UK population is from a non-white ethnic group.

Or, as Spencer Stuart bravely said at tne end of last year, and was covered here on Forbes: "BAME representation in Britain’s boardrooms stands today where female representation stood 17 years ago – in 1998."

The Parker Review argues that every FTSE 100 company should have at least one non-white director by 2021, for representation and for better business.

“The Parker Review’s recommendations are an ambitious but also practical basis on which to make progress on an important issue" said Josh Hardie, the CBI's Deputy Director General.


“We have senior, talented people of colour working in our biggest companies. FTSE 100 and 250 firms must take action now to ensure these successful candidates are being selected to serve on their boards. Not only this, companies must do more to secure their future talent and help capable employees from all backgrounds progress to senior management positions” he added.

The Parker Review makes specific recommendations. They include requiring human resources teams in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies to identify ethnically diverse people to be considered for board jobs when vacancies come in.

It's all good news, on a sunny November morning. Just remember how long it is all taking, and ask yourself why that might be. Britain and inclusion has been covered here repeatedly on Board Talk (the search engine works) and on my page at Forbes.

Lord Davies of Abersoch led the UK government's review on the lack of women non-executive directors on UK boards, but Chime Communications, which he chaired at the time, was a media company with no women on its board. No shortage of women in media.

Then, thanks perhaps in part to media coverage, two were appointed, one of whom had an Indian background.

The trouble, you see, is both that people don't pay attention if it takes extra effort - and also, more fundamentally, a lack of visibility for potential non-white candidates.

Just as there was never a problem with a lack of women for those non-executive director roles, there is no shortage of talent across ethnic backgrounds. It's just that those people don't grab as much media attention as the rest.

I think you will find that the story about Chime has only ever featured here (I have an excellent blog sponsor in ICSA Software  and have had complete independence, for over three years).  It was offered to a mainstream business paper I was contributing to at the time - but declined, albeit with regret.

And, for what it is worth - I think the business media should make it a point (as they have to some extent been doing around women) to look harder and regularly publish interviews with potential rising talent useful to businesses.

The accompanying photographs could reflect the richness of Britain's ethnic representation. It might even be a very useful exercise in healing and education, after that vote.








Categories: Representation, Diversity, Appointments