Eusebe believes companies need to have what she calls ‘courageous conversations’ to understand ethnicity. “It’s not like addressing the gender pay gap,” she says. “We can learn lessons from that, but gender is binary, whereas ethnicity is wrapped up in colour, race, culture, tradition, religion. The discomfort of discussing race in the workplace causes avoidance to the point of stifling, if not preventing, progress. People don’t even know what terms are appropriate when discussing race, so they don’t discuss it at all. But we need to have those courageous conversations.”
And she says they can often be started by looking at existing employees who have already taken up the banner of ethnic diversity. “The strongest BAME advocacy group in most companies is quite often the employee resource group who are doing this ‘for free’ – they do it as a matter of course but tend not to have the mandate or access to opportunity to influence strategy. You need to seek out these people in your organisation – they could be BAME employees themselves, or very strong advocates – and invite them to have input into strategy discussions,” Eusebe says.
“BAME staff are so diverse that we need to let go of the idea of the importance of quantitative data and quotas – they’re not going to work for a business with five staff in a white rural area. Data needs to be more qualitative, to reflect where the barriers really are within an organisation.”
Coe agrees, adding: “You need transparency, quality reporting of figures, and aspirational targets – these have all helped narrow the gender pay gap.”
While Eusebe believes quotas are impractical, she agrees aspirational targets are vital. “What gets measured gets done,” she says. “We need to ask: ‘What does good look like?’ We have targets for every other key performance indicator in business – if we’re serious, we need them also to measure BAME progression.”
Most of all, the reports agree that an increase in the number of BAME managers can only inspire greater numbers to follow their example. “The greatest driver is role models,” says Coe. “There’s a phrase: ‘If I can see it, I can be it.’ Nothing motivates more, all the way from school, through university and into business, than seeing someone like you who has already achieved.
“That way, we can unlock this £24bn. Proper, equal BAME progression is not just about the fundamental moral and legal reasons – it will give our organisations, and our country, a huge business advantage.”
Seven action points
- Ensure your recruitment is based on measurable skills – what you know, not who you know
- Widen your talent pool by broadening your range of recruitment methods
- Wet aspirational targets to promote BAME recruitment and advancement – with a clear strategy of how to achieve them
- Establish accountability at board level for diversity – make sure it’s owned
- Have ‘courageous conversations’ about race in the workplace
- Create an effective pipeline to the top, through individual mentoring or training
- Have visible BAME role models to whom others can aspire