Friday, June 19, 2009


Race for Opportunity have just published a report on the state of British workplaces, which makes for interesting reading. It calls for greater transparency and celebrates organisations which collect data on the ethnicity of their employees and their progress through the workplace. The publication of this benchmarking study is noteworthy, and for me, it is as interesting what is not in the report as what is. For example, the report claims that in the top 100 companies, the number of ethnic minorities (5%) is lower than the total UK population of minorities (10%). If you go to Grammar Schools in Britain, the proportion of ethnic minorities is more like 30%! So why should we even settle for 10% in the Boardroom, if minorities are so able and so resourceful. Also, if the top 100 British corporations are global corporations, then surely they should outward facing rather than inward looking? In which case the target percentage of diversity in the boardroom should be more like 80%!

There is an admission that something is going wrong in the middle of these organisations - not enough people are rising up the ladder. Here again corporate culture and attitudes has a very important role to play. Some organisations like American Express and the MoD have introduced mentoring as a way of enabling people to rise through the ranks and support them in the process. This is very important and laudable. But it is a slow and gradual process. And as the report highlights, the recession can set back some of these long term schemes very easily.

My real fear is that the leadership in Corporate Britain is still resisting diversity and pushing it under the carpet. The genuine commitment in this area is very weak. As a result, the significant structural changes needed in the organisations do not happen. And minorities certainly lose out big time. For many, workplaces are like torture chambers, especially as they climb the ladder. And in the recession, these chambers become traps. Sadly a large number of minorities give up their identity on their way to the top. That is the only way they can 'adapt'. I am sure this has a big impact on their 'inner' personal life.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


One of Britain's most famous poets, Benjamin Zephaniah, has a profound and deep love of people. He has written a wonderful poem called 'The British' which is linked below:

It creatively shows the melting pot of Britain, described as a recipe - a recipe for fun, joy and creativity, a recipe for respect. In a few words, Benjamin shows that equality is not a statement or a policy guideline but a practical act of connection and dignity. Each and every person is important, each and every voice is important, and peace is the most important of all.

Words can be used to build bridges. In workplaces, we can use words to inspire, to motivate, to respect, to encourage and to build a better Britain, proud of its diversity, keen to embrace it and profit from it. The BBC's poetry season is a great reminder of the power of words and their importance in inspiring people and uplifting everyday lives. Raise your life today - read a poem, or write one.

And enjoy the dialogue with your soul.