THE BLOG

How to Get More BAME People in Boardrooms

01/04/2015 20:49 BST | Updated 01/06/2015 10:59 BST

This week it's been reported that Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Prudential, will leave to take the top job at Credit Suisse. Whilst the headlines are focussing on his pay packet more importantly we now have no ethnic minority CEO leading a UK company. Actually we have never had a UK-born Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) person leading a FTSE 100 business.

We know that there is a senior lack of BAME representation at senior levels of business. Race for Opportunity's 'Race at the Top' report published last year found that just 62 directorships in the FTSE 100 were held by people coming from non-European ethnic backgrounds - 5.7 per cent of the total - and only eight of those had British nationality. Meanwhile, other research shows that two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies had all-white executive leaderships and just 3.5 per cent of senior executives came from a BAME background.

Since we published our report in June, there have been some strides made towards improving BAME representation at senior levels: the Financial Reporting Council redefined diversity reporting at board level as gender 'and race', which is likely to come into effect in 2016.

The Coalition and Labour have pledged to carry out a review of ethnic diversity on FTSE 100 boards, with Labour's Chuka Umunna reinforcing the commitment in a speech earlier this week.

The review of women on boards by Lord Davies has shown that this type of voluntary targets-based approach does work to increase gender diversity - now we need the focus to shift to ethnicity. However, diversity at the top of business is more than just importing in a senior token 'diverse' non-executive director.

If this situation is to improve, we need to ensure there is BAME talent waiting in the wings to take over when leadership roles become available. Sadly, the current outlook is not encouraging; more than half of FTSE 100 companies had no BAME presence in their top 20 leaders, and in the top 100 positions below this level just 6.1 per cent came from a BAME background.

We can't get BAME candidates into senior roles if we aren't earmarking them for development. Our 2014 Gender and Race Benchmark found that BAME employees are less likely to be rated in the top two performance rating categories and to be identified as high potential, and that appraisal mechanisms feeding into leadership are less likely to rate BAME employees favourably than they do for their white peers.

So what can employers do to increase diversity at the top? From our benchmark, we know what actions have a positive impact on BAME representation at senior levels. From setting targets for board and senior management, appointing board members who are responsible for diversity in the leadership pipeline, monitoring appraisal data, to equality-proofing leadership core competencies and maximising the potential of high performing BAME employees through reverse mentoring, sponsorship and career coaching. If more employers use these approaches, they will start to see greater equality in their workforce at every level.

From cashiers to CEOs, from talent attraction to leadership succession and feeder pools - all applicants and employees deserve a fair chance. Only then will we ensure that employers in both private and public sectors are making the most of all talent, and that senior management within UK plc reflects the multi-cultural population it operates in and serves.