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Number of FTSE 100 black executives falls to zero

The number of black executives holding top positions at FTSE 100 companies has fallen to zero. We have a problem, writes diversity champion Kayleigh Graham.

17th Feb 2021
Partnerships manager Capitalise.com
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It’s February 2021 and according to data compiled by Green Park, when looking at the UK’s biggest companies, not one of their CFO, CEO or chair roles was filled by a black person. An only ten of 297 (3.4%) leaders in the top three roles have ethnic minority backgrounds. The figure hasn’t been this low since 2014.

At FTSE100 board and executive committee level, the percentage of black executives (1.1%) has also fallen below Green Park’s first report in 2014 (1.3%). Numbers in the leadership pipeline has dropped from 1.4% to 0.9% in the last year.

What is happening?

The last 12 months have seen organisations posting their support for the black lives matter movement, reaching out to black employees for their feedback and thoughts and yet for the first time in at least six years, there is not one black person at the top of any of these companies. 

Green Park chairman Trevor Philips said, "It is time that shareholders, consumers and employees start questioning whether Black Lives Matter is just rhetoric rather than reality”, and I have to agree.

"We know there is no shortage of qualified candidates to fill these roles if companies are willing to look. Yet the snowy peaks of British business remain stubbornly white".

In 2017, UK officials set a diversity target for FTSE 100 companies to have at least one board member from a minority background and yet according to the Parker Review. And as of last winter, only 37% of those surveyed do. 

I would urge everyone to take a look at the report and spend some time digesting the information as there are clear downward trends in the amount of black and minority representation and talent in the pipeline. 

What now?

In 'Not being racist' is not enough, I emphasised the importance of being aware of your own individual biases, educating yourself on the topic and increasing awareness/conversation about racism and diversity. I stand by this, however, we also need to instigate real change and start holding organisations accountable. 

If you told your employees last year that there would be an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, what have you done since?

If you haven’t made any change, why is that? Have you been honest about that? What are you going to do now?

If you have made changes, what are they? Have you communicated with them? Have you asked for feedback? What are you going to do next?

As an employee, if you were told things were going to happen, have they? What do you think about the changes that have/have not been made? Have you provided this feedback?

I often use the word ‘clumsy’ to describe some of the early-stage conversations that will happen as people begin to challenge biases and behaviour and implement new diverse and inclusive strategies/behaviours. Instigating change and holding people accountable is not about creating more animosity. It’s about asking people to reflect and be truly honest and then take real action. 

With regard to the FTSE 100 companies, I hope that this report will have forced a light onto the clear issues that they have in terms of diversity and the obvious work that needs to be done to rectify this. 

The conversations from last year need to continue and that will only happen if we keep bringing these issues to the forefront.

Black Lives Still Matter. 

Replies (17)

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Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
17th Feb 2021 10:46

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where there was no need to see articles like this. No need for quotas based on sex, race, religion or other identifiable characteristic. Where everyone is satisfied that if a person has a role, it is because they are qualified and competent for the role, and not for any other reason.

“I have a dream, I hope will come true.”

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By Donny7
17th Feb 2021 13:05

It's an obvious problem worldwide. Many people are overlooked for promotion due to their race.

Sad world we live in, and even worse if you are in the UK.

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By richards1
18th Feb 2021 11:18

What makes you think its "worse if you are in the UK", do you have evidence of this or is just a prejudice ref "white"

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bike
By FirstTab
17th Feb 2021 21:22

delete

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By Paul Crowley
18th Feb 2021 10:58

Is there underrepresentation of Asian and Chinese as well?

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By hyper10
18th Feb 2021 11:07

My son was in the Academy of a then Premier league side, as white English, he was 1 of 3 or 4 white kids, the rest were Black or mixed race. No one said this was unfair because it wasn't, they were chosen based on skill and ability.
He went for an interview at a Law Firm and I looked on their website, the actually now say, they want Black applicants who will be favoured.
It's actually pathetic that a group need to create a problem so that it is a way of hiding possible under achieve, I could have been a Billionaire, if I was better at doing what I do, I'm not but I'm not blaming anti Irish sentiment for that.
The road to achievement starts with ownership of strengths and weaknesses

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By jerryboy
18th Feb 2021 11:20

I totally agree with you. I'm black and yes, there might be unfair treatment/bias in some instance in the society but we can't keep playing the race card each time.

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By jerryboy
18th Feb 2021 11:21

.

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By moneymanager
18th Feb 2021 17:28

"It's actually pathetic that a group need to create a problem so that it is a way of hiding", one group has been doing that for millenia.

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By philaccountant
19th Feb 2021 16:03

"My son was in the Academy of a then Premier league side, as white English, he was 1 of 3 or 4 white kids, the rest were Black or mixed race. No one said this was unfair because it wasn't, they were chosen based on skill and ability."

Isn't that kind of the point? Premier league sides pick based on ability and are, to some degree meritocratic. Clearly and conversely it can be seen from the statistics that FTSE100 companies are not to some degree.

Unless you're trying to say there's not a single black person in the country who could do one of those jobs, which would be quite a claim.

"It's actually pathetic that a group need to create a problem so that it is a way of hiding possible under achieve".

That's a pretty spurious claim if ever I saw one. The evidence is staring you in the face, zero black executives. And yet your first port of call is to say that 5% of the population are just making the whole thing up. And more than that, we can infer that they aren't capable of doing the jobs, otherwise they'd have them already.

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By matthewleitch
19th Feb 2021 16:37

The appropriate conclusion to draw from the 'zero black executives' statistic is that we don't know why it is true. It would be wrong to assume that this is purely due to unfair treatment of black people by white people, just as it would be wrong to assume that it is purely due to lack of capable black people who are also putting themselves forward as candidates.

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By matthewleitch
18th Feb 2021 11:29

The author of this article clearly believes and is saying that the reason for there being no black senior executives at the moment is widespread unfair discrimination by senior white people, on a massive scale. Is that true? I think this is a great exaggeration. Such discrimination has been illegal for many years and being racist has been regarded by most white people in the UK as a very bad thing for many years. It's also a deeply insulting thing to say to people who, in almost all cases, think that being racist is a terrible thing.

Finally, exaggerating the extent of white racism in this way (i.e. saying that the boards of FTSE 100 companies are white racists who will not give a chance to promising black employees) is surely discouraging to black people who might otherwise have tried to rise to that level. This is not helping the very people the writer seeks to help.

As an example of this phenomenon, consider MP Kemi Badenoch, who says that at school she was advised against applying to Oxford University because, in effect, the admissions tutors were racist snobs. She did not apply as a result, and this is a pity because these tutors were not and are not racist snobs.

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By moneymanager
18th Feb 2021 13:19

"The number of black brain surgeons has fallen to zero"

Okay, so rope in a few GPs and all will be fine? Stupidity, competence before politics, every time.

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By coops456
18th Feb 2021 15:35

We have been trained to see racism as a simple binary: good people are not racist, only bad people are. I'm not bad, so I can't possibly be racist.

But it's far more complex and as a white person you have to disengage your natural defensiveness and open your heart and mind to the message.

White privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism. So it can be hard for us to see what those consequences are.

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By matthewleitch
18th Feb 2021 16:24

"as a white person you have to disengage your natural defensiveness and open your heart and mind to the message"

This sounds a bit like you mean that just being white is enough to identify someone as racist and defensive about it. That's really not fair to the many white people who are not racist in the usual sense.

I would have written: "Some white people really do have unfair views of non-white people and some of those feel defensive when this is pointed out. Those people need to examine their thinking and behaviour more carefully. Other white people - most in fact - do not have unfairly biased views of non-white people and are, quite naturally, annoyed to be accused of racism."

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By AndyC555
19th Feb 2021 14:12

"...it's far more complex and as a white person you have to disengage your natural defensiveness and open your heart and mind to the message."

I guess it's only "white people" who need to do this because it's only "white people" who can be racists?

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By matthewleitch
19th Feb 2021 14:48

I don't think that is what the posting was saying. It was addressing white people and just not considering at all the situation for non-white people. The commenter is a white person and perhaps only wanted to address white people. Perhaps they will weigh in and explain.

Having said that, the term 'racist' has been muddied by competing definitions. What is clearly true is that anyone, of any race, can unfairly discriminate and can make unfairly biased assessments of other people. When someone concludes, based purely on a person's race, that they are evil racists, then that is an unfairly biased assessment because I don't think there is any race where literally everyone is an evil racist.

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