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Does diversity in the boardroom really matter?



Last week the executive recruitment company Green Park released a diversity report. Its focus was primarily regarding companies missing diversity targets outlined in a government-backed initiative. This initiative recommends that in three years time we should expect at least a single director from an ethnic minority in every organisation within the FTSE 100. At the moment only 52 of the FTSE 100 manage this. It has taken five years for that number to rise by a measly four individuals. It is very slow and unacceptable progress.


Why has progress been so slow for BAME potential directors?


This is hardly good going. Two years ago an independent review explored just how to increase the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic in boardrooms. This initiative shortened to BAME has had limited success. To fulfil the expectation of having at least one BAME director continuing at the current rate we will need to wait until 2066. You may be wondering why this is the case. After all, women now represent 25% of board members so why has progress been so slow for BAME potential directors?


The main sticking point is the leadership pipeline.



Leaders do not spring from nowhere. They need to be backed, trained, nurtured and educated to believe the boardroom is their destiny. They need to work in companies and organisations that take the threats to their organisation seriously and truly live and breathe diversity. Right now it’s not going well as in 2018 those on their way up from the BAME community had fallen by 0.1%, which is very disappointing. It seems that black men, especially, are not represented and this must change. It is interesting that positive discrimination and targeted mentoring are not more in evidence, because as an economic indicator diversity is very profitable. If the moral case wasn’t strong enough then why is the economic case being ignored?


Moral and economic drivers are important considerations


Perhaps the fact there still needs to be more of a financially driven case for action may be one reason for the small decline and lack of speed and pressure. Ultimately it is worth considering that diversity and also inclusion is capable of achieving much in an organisation in terms of highly positive outcomes. Yes, when you support individuals your results are not always measured in a specific way but knowing how hard it is to recruit staff in the first place wouldn’t well being and satisfaction contribute much?



Yet there’s more than any of this at stake. Many leaders are very good at “talking a good narrative but nothing much changes. Change does not have anywhere like the speed of the narrative. If there is overt racism in some of the boardrooms just imagine what is happening amidst the “voiceless” section further down the pipeline?


Without a different approach there won’t be any change any time soon



Therefore if there is any chance at all of fulfilling the aims of getting one BAME director into a FTSE 100 company then that change is overdue. Positive action must being right now. To develop a sustainable pipeline of future leaders then we cannot cross our fingers and hope for the best. Aspiration begins very early and youngsters need to see the career pathways open to them. Also mentors and role models must be in evidence. We need commentators and high profile leaders on show to lead the way otherwise this dire situation will not change anytime soon. However we need more than role models we need ‘real models’ to quote Raj Tulsiani CEO of Green Park.


We should be doing much more than a basic response to diversity


As a recruiter I see the dearth of talent filtering through from BAME and it is frustrating not to be able to put forward diverse candidates. I do know that it is actually people management skills that run alongside an organisation’s culture and values that matter. These are important to underpin any development when it comes to working practices. What we shouldn’t be doing is simply following the letter of the law. Surely the spirit of it is much more important? What do you think?


Many of the clients I deal with are large global organisations where most will have a clear diversity and inclusion policy. What does this mean for me as a recruiter? To ensure that where possible shortlists are diverse, our approach is always to widen the pool from where we recruit candidates. This ensures that regardless of race, gender, colour or creed we identify the best possible candidate for the role we are looking to fill. This is not always easy, however, especially in certain areas. For example production and engineering have historically been dominated by men but we are seeing changes. We are doing our very best to redress the balance.


If you want to know more then do check out the CIPD website and download their pdf entitled Diversity and Inclusion at Work; it really does make interesting reading.


If you would like to contact me about some aspect of executive recruitment within the food industry you can make a no obligation appointment by calling me Call +44 (0) 7793 526078 or email mike@meyrickconsulting.com.