BAME Power List Targets Diversity Deficit at Top of Business

26/05/2016 10:52

Do you believe that the people running the world's biggest companies should be broadly representative of the societies they serve? Most people would probably say yes.

This is why we've seen so much attention focused on the gender imbalance at the top of companies, leading to really positive change. In the UK, for example, women now account for 26% of FTSE 100 boards, up from 13% in 2011: by no means 'job done', but certainly encouraging progress.

However, an issue that has received far less scrutiny is the under-representation of people from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background in business.

Today, just 3% of CEOs in FTSE 100 companies and 7% of AIM CEOs are not white, despite the BAME community making up 14% of the UK population. The picture is even bleaker in the US. Although BAME is not used as a classification in America, the non-white population (including Hispanic and Middle Eastern) stands at 28%, while only 11% of CEOs at S&P 100 companies are not white.

That's a long way from representative, and suggests there's a deeper problem. Either people from a BAME background don't see business as 'for them', or their progress up the corporate career ladder is being impeded.

Either way, it's something that needs to be addressed if the business world is to tap into the deepest possible pool of talent.

That's why today, in partnership with the FT, we have published the inaugural UPstanding Executive Power List of the top 100 BAME business leaders in the UK, US and Ireland.

The list features the inspirational Muhtar Kent, CEO The Coca-Cola Company at number one. It also highlights those individuals who have smashed double-glass ceilings. It's worth noting Manjit Wolstenholme (ranked 2nd) is the only female BAME Chair of a FTSE 100 company and Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO TaskRabbit (ranked 8th) is the only female BAME CEO in Silicon Valley.

Every person on the list has had a real impact by driving the BAME agenda forward within their community, for example via involvement with representative groups or support organisations.

In the past, the BAME business community has been fractured, working individually rather than together. This list is the first to unite the different communities as a collective voice which will powerfully drive the BAME agenda forward. The list also has heavyweight backing from PWC, LinkedIn, Unilever, Barclays, Slaughter and May, the Bank of England, King Digital Entertainment PLC and Babcock International.

Critics might question why people from a BAME background need to be specifically called out in this kind of list. But to me that misses the point. These lists are not about asking for special treatment or quotas. They're simply about shining the spotlight on those BAME leaders who have achieved success against the odds, to inspire the next generation.

I whole-heartedly believe that making diverse role models visible and celebrating them is the most powerful way to address imbalance in the business world. By doing so you are demonstrating to the leaders of tomorrow exactly what is possible for minority ethnic groups. The message of this list is that there should be no boundaries or barriers to your potential.

The business case for a top-down approach to achieving visibly diverse organisations is supported by new research also released today by Audeliss. This reveals 70% of the UK population are more likely to buy products from, or use the services of, a company which they consider to be inclusive of all minorities and diverse in its approach to employment. And 86% of the UK population say it's important for people at the very top of organisations to promote messages of diversity and inclusion.

There is plenty of other evidence that diverse workforces are more productive and more creative. And The Coca-Cola Company's Muhtar Kent, sums it up well, "I am pleased and honoured to work alongside people of character from many nations and people groups. To me, our headquarters looks like a miniature united nations and we're a much stronger business because of the contributions of all kinds of people from all across the world."

Congratulations to all those featured in today's list and let's hope their example helps inspire the next generation of BAME business leaders.