7 out of 10 Ethnic Minority Leaders Experienced Discrimination En Route to the Top

June 13, 2016

WEDNESDAY, 13 JULY 2016 (London) Research out today on the views of ethnic minority senior executives and board leaders on workplace barriers reveals bias is part of the cultural norm.

The survey from Harvey Nash’s Engage network, representing leaders from all ethnic backgrounds, shows seven out of ten (71%) experienced ethnic discrimination in their career that has meant they have had to work even harder to reach board level or the most senior positions.

The findings highlight an unfair playing field tipped in favour of white men. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of ethnic minority leaders believe that the unconscious bias of CEOs and boards – which are 74% male and 95% white in the FTSE 100 – is hindering ethnic minorities from progressing to board level.

It also highlights the existence of an ‘old boys’ network. Sixty-two per cent of respondents believe that ethnic minorities are not in the circles or on the radars of leadership teams and executive search firms, meaning they are unlikely to be considered for board positions and businesses are missing out on a huge talent pool.

These figures emerge following a recent Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Inquiry that found just 13% of FTSE 100 companies provided training on equality law and avoiding unconscious bias to those on the board involved in appointments and almost a third (32%) of businesses continue to rely on personal networks to identify candidates.

In light of the recent EU Referendum result, the research presents a worrying backdrop as nationality and ethnic background have drawn the media’s attention. Improving diversity requires commitment from the very top of an organisation, however the research points to lack of action from the CEO and board, with over half (52%) of respondents believing that CEOs and leadership teams do not see the business benefits of diversity to the bottom line despite numerous academic and other studies such as McKinsey’s Diversity Matters.

The top three recommendations from the research to improve diversity on boards were: Target recruiters to include diversity on shortlists (36%), Educate CEOs and boards on the value of diversity (32%), and Insist on transparency and reporting on both the full recruitment process and ethnic diversity at executive and board level (28%).

Peter Reichwald, founder of Engage and Director at Harvey Nash Board Practice said:

“We should be deeply concerned by the evidence from the most senior ethnic minority leaders suggesting recruitment and promotion is not necessarily based on merit, but what you look like. Despite these barriers, these individuals have made it to the highest levels and we must ask ourselves if this is what we want for future generations.

“There is a clear mandate for boards and executive search firms to search wider and harness the vast talent pool currently over-looked, reinforcing the role of Engage. But there is a role for all of us to recognise there is an ethnic bias in business and we must take action to create a level playing field where individuals are not barred by factors out of their control.”


Notes to the Editors

1.Download the infographic, ‘The Ethnicity Gap: Understanding Barriers to the Boardroom for Ethnic Minorities’, from the Engage website at http://bit.ly/29JOEvC
2.The research is based on a survey of 130 ethnic minority participants and 10 in-depth interviews held in May 2016. This includes Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), Chairs, Executive Directors, CEOs and senior Directors from the public and private sectors, government and academia. The gender split of respondents was 42% female and 58% male.
3.The Equality & Human Rights Commission ‘Inquiry into Fairness, Transparency and Diversity in FTSE 350 Board Appointments’ can be found here https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/inquiry-fairness-transparency-and-diversity-ftse-350-board-appointments

For more information or requests for interview, contact:
Amanda Ciske
Marketing and Communications Manager, Engage & Inspire at Harvey Nash
0207 333 1505 / amanda.ciske@harveynash.com

About Engage
Engage is a network connecting senior business leaders from all cultural backgrounds. Its purpose is to act as a platform for discussion, networking and peer-to-peer support for a section of the business community traditionally underrepresented at executive and board level.

To learn more, please visit http://www.harveynash.com/engage/

Follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/EngageHN | #EthnicityGap

About Harvey Nash
Harvey Nash has helped over half the world’s leading companies recruit, source and manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive, global and technology driven world. With over 7,000 experts in more than 40 offices across Europe, Asia and the USA, we have the reach and resources of a global organisation, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility that empowers our people across the world to respond to constantly changing client needs. We work with clients, both large and small, to deliver a portfolio of services: executive search, professional recruitment and IT outsourcing.

To learn more, please visit www.harveynash.com