Monday, January 12, 2009
GLASS CEILING OR DARK CEILING?
The latest report on race in Britain from Race for Opportunity shows yet again the real difficulties for ethnic minorities to attain senior positions in both the private and public sectors - the report actually shows that the gap is likely to widen in the future, rather than narrow. None of this is surprising and there is very little embarassment even after Obama has attained the highest leadership position in the world. The real truth is that there is widespread ignorance in Britain about culture and the benefits of diversity and a real fear of difference, especially among people with positions of power and influence. They would rather have workers whose behaviour is known and predictable. Also all too often, the opportunities, mentoring, training and experience that is required at middle-management levels is denied to them. There is a club mentality and people of different cultures are not allowed to be in this club. Even worse, the phrase 'glass ceiling' suggests you can look but not touch or reach. However, if the ceiling is dark, one cannot even look. There are so many public and private sector organisations which have no visibility among ethnic minorities and therefore, we are not even aware of the possibilities for career potential and progression that lie in these organisations.
If there is a serious commitment to change, then work needs to be done at several levels - leadership training to allay fears of diversity, targets to force leaders to change habits or leave, a communications audit to test how the organisation is perceived by minorities, and a culture of innovation which requires organisations to come up with new ways of operating and involving minorities in the innovation process.
If we look at Universities and Grammar Schools in Britain today, they are disproportionately dominated by high achieving ethnic minority students. If there are such strong blockages to leadership, you can rest assured that many of the cream professionals of this country will be migrating out of Britain in the coming years, leading to a brain drain. At a time of economic crisis, Britain simply cannot afford to lose its best brains. Urgent and decisive action is necessary. No less will do.