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The colour of power - 97% of Britain's most powerful elite is white

View profile for Lucy Sorell

The Guardian recently partnered with Operation Black Vote to assess the ethnic makeup of Britain’s most powerful. They drew up a list of around 1,000 of the UK’s most influential figures across a number of sectors including politics, financial services and the judiciary. Only 36 of that number (3.4%) were from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – despite 13% of the UK population being ethnic minorities. One striking feature of the survey is that minorities are particularly poorly represented in public serving functions: there are no BAME Chief Constables, London Borough Council CEOs, Civil Service Permanent Secretaries or trade union leaders/CEOs (to name a few). 

Employers often report proudly on their diverse employee populations and increasing numbers of women in leadership. However, only rarely do we hear about ethnically diverse boards and leadership teams – and there is probably a reason for this. Studies like this and reports such as the Taylor Review will increase the pressure on government to legislate for greater equality at leadership level. As part of this, it’s possible that compulsory ethnicity pay gap reporting will be introduced. PwC, which famously reported its ethnicity pay gap voluntarily, made a public statement recently indicating that it had reflected on what it could do to reduce its 12.8% ethnicity pay gap. One strategy it suggested was having more BAME role models at the top levels of its business, but it is difficult to see how it can implement this in the short term when minorities are so underrepresented at the top levels. It will be interesting to see whether ethnicity pay gap reporting actually increases diversity – and which methods work in achieving this. 

Read more about the Colour of Power here