11/03/2016 11:11 GMT | Updated 11/03/2017 05:12 GMT

#CSuiteSoWhite: Lack of diversity at the top prompts launch of UPstanding Executive Power List

It may only be March but the issue of diversity, specifically ethnic diversity, has been one of the most widely covered topics of 2016. From University admissions to the Oscars, there is an unsettling sense of regression in the number of visibly successful BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic-including Hispanic and Middle Eastern) people in both the UK and America.

Halle Berry summed it up, "to sit here almost 15 years later knowing that another woman of colour has not walked through that door [referencing her Oscar win in 2001], is heart-breaking. It's heart-breaking, because I thought that moment was bigger than me."

Without prominent and diverse role models, it is impossible for the whole next generation to be inspired and this is as true in business as anywhere else.

In fact, the business world is one of the worst affected industries by a diversity lag. At Audeliss we recently discovered that despite BAME communities making up 14% of the UK population, just 4% of CEOs of businesses listed on the FTSE 100 are BAME.

The situation is worse in America where although the non-white population make up 28% of the total just 11% of businesses listed on the S&P 100 have non-white CEOs. #OscarsSoWhite? #CSuiteSoWhite!

This means there is just one BAME CEO of a FTSE 100 company for every 2.3 million BAME people in the UK, compared to one white CEO for every 600,000 white people. Looking at the problem from the bottom up paints an equally bleak picture; despite 1 in 8 of the working age population coming from a BAME background, only 1 in 10 are in the workplace.

There are some groups effectively championing singular strands of the business BAME community, such as the Asian Professional Awards, Black British Business Awards and the PowerList. However we noticed that there is no association that champions and celebrates the BAME business community as a representative whole.

That's why in May we - in partnership with the Financial Times - will be celebrating the inaugural UPstanding Executive Power List. Backed by business giants PWC, LinkedIn, Unilever, Barclays, Bank of England and Slaughter and May, this Top 100 list will bring these groups together as a collective voice to champion BAME individuals who have achieved great personal success in the business world.


Talent, not background, is the driving force behind this list. It is a fact that businesses make better decisions when they include diverse people across the organisation. Any business which still fails to accept this is operating in the dark ages. This is highlighted in Mckinsey's report Diversity Matters, which proved companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity, are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Another useful study of 24,457 UK workers, published by Business in the Community last year reminds us that more than underrepresentation, racism remains rife in the workplace. 32% of BAME employees have witnessed or experienced racial harassment or bullying from colleagues in the last five years. And nearly the same percentage of BAME workers (30%) believe there is no-one they can relate to in their organisation and therefore don't have a mentor.

I was almost surprised to read one stat in Race at Work 2015 which gave me cause for optimism. Apparently, 1 in 5 employees from the BAME group said they are on their employer's succession planning list for senior roles, compared with 1 in 10 of white employees. This is an indication that employers are actively trying to diversify their board pipeline. We know there's still a long way to go but there is light at the end of the tunnel - and we all need to chase it together, to succeed.

Are you, or do you know, someone who is ethnically diverse, who proves that race need not be a barrier to success and who positively and actively supports the BAME cause at an executive level? If so, please nominate them or yourself for our 2016 UPstanding Executive Power List before Sunday, April 17 by clicking here

To encourage others to get involved, share the link for nominations using the hashtag #CSuiteSoWhite.