A recent report from the UK’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has found that significant barriers still remain for people from minority ethnic groups working to reach senior leadership positions in FTSE 100 and FTSE 200 companies.
The challenges the report identified included overt and covert racism, being overlooked for promotions, and having to demonstrate higher standards compared with colleagues from majority backgrounds to progress or have the same development opportunities.
The report, Navigating barriers to senior leadership for people from minority ethnic groups in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, was commissioned by the FRC and conducted by a research team from Cranfield University and Delta Alpha Psi Services.
Exploring the lived experiences of senior leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds through interviews and focus groups, the report suggests that, while minority ethnic executives lead successful careers and run successful businesses, they also have to adopt strategies such as ‘blending in’ and minimising their difference to get on, or ‘standing out’ to define their brand and celebrate their difference.
However, many participants also felt the increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement from 2020 had caused a significant positive shift in the quality of conversations about organisational approaches to race and ethnic diversity.
While there are still many challenges to be addressed, the report found that the need for change has been taken seriously across the spectrum, including senior managers, executive leaders, board chairs and executive search consultants.
FRC CEO Jon Thompson said: “With the power of these personal insights and experiences that go beyond the data, I hope this report can help advance the conversation about how to successfully increase diversity in senior positions on boards and create sustainable pipelines of diverse talent to fill both executive and non-executive roles.”
Cranfield University Gender, Leadership, and Inclusion Research Centre director and lead author of the report, Deirdre Anderson said: “Our research shows that it’s essential for organisations to continue to build trust among their employees. Not only will this encourage self-identification against all diverse demographics, it will also provide accurate and complete data for monitoring progress against race and ethnic equality goals. This will help organisations expand on existing good practice and continue to dismantle the existing structural barriers towards greater equity.”
The full report can be read here