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Britain's boardrooms must adopt targets on ethnicity

TALENT DRIVE: The Runnymede Trust says proper representation in the boardroom helps companies to become more competitive

FTSE 100 COMPANIES need to adopt ethnic targets to be economically competitive and make progress on achieving diversity in the boardrooms.

That’s the view of race equality think-tank Runnymede Trust in response to a recent re- view into boardroom racial diversity, led by Sir John Parker. The Parker Review’s report, called Beyond One by 21, published at the end of last year and based on research undertaken in March 2016 by Dr Doyin Atewologun of Queen Mary University of London, found that more than half of FTSE 100 companies do not have someone from a black or ethnic minority (BAME) background on their board.

It also found that out of 1,087 director positions in the FTSE 100,only eight percent of positions are held by directors from BAME backgrounds, of which 1.5 per cent are UK citizens, despite the fact that 14 per cent of the total UK population is from a non-white ethnic group.

Seven companies account for more than one-third of directors of colour in the FTSE 100, whilst 53 of the FTSE 100 do not have any directors of colour at all. According to the report, some blue chip firms are making efforts to improve diversity, while others appear to be dragging their heels.

Dr Omar Khan, director of the Runnymede Trust, said: “Targets for top FTSE companies is not about positive discrimination, but about widening the talent pool and offering boards a new perspective that can help decision-making. Increasingly, diversity is becoming an international business currency. Those firms that remain un-representative will become less competitive.”

He added: “We welcome the Parker Review and agree with their recommendation to ensure one ethnic minority board member in every FTSE 100 company in the next five years. “We call on all organisations to set similar targets for ethnic minorities, at both board level, and at middle management, to ensure Britain gets the most of our country’s talent, improving both opportunities and economic success.”

The Beyond One by ’21 report, notes that the UK population and its workforce has changed dramatically over the past 40 years and will continue to do so. It estimates that the UK will be the most diverse country in Western Europe by 2051, with more than 30 per cent of the population expected to be comprised of people from ethnic minority or migrant backgrounds.

Among Beyond One by ’21’s key recommendations to increase the ethnic diversity of UK boards are that each FTSE 100 board should have at least one director of colour by 2021, and each FTSE 250 board by 2024. It also says that nomination committees of all FTSE 100 and 250 companies should require their human resources teams or search firms to identify and present qualified people of colour to be considered for board appointment when vacancies occur.

Sir John Parker, who was appointed in 2015 to chair the industry-led review, said: “The boardrooms of Britain’s leading companies do not reflect the ethnic diversity of either the UK or the stakeholders that they seek to engage and represent.”

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