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.


ljs in fla said...

I am working on my Masters Degree in Human Resource Development and am employed as a HR Professional practicing in a small city of the public sector of the State of Florida, US. This semester I am studying Diversity Consciousness. I was most interested in your article specifically the statistics of ethnic minorities mentioned. I was curious as to the makeup of these minority percentages. Here corporate America has embraced the concept of diversity in the workplace with the initiative focusing on the value each individual contributes. It is about teaching managers the skill to identifying the unique contribution of diversity. Yet, climbing the corporate ladder still holds barriers of prejudice in some organizations.

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