Pavita Cooper is the founder of a boutique executive search and talent insight consultancy which focuses on identifying exceptions talent from diverse sources. She has more than 25 years’ experience leading global talent, leadership and executive resourcing teams in organisations such as Shell, BAA, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group. Pavita is a Steering Committee member of the 30 Percent Club, founder of the campaigning group, Colour on Boards and a non-executive director of family care provider, My Family Care.
“…We need to break the silence on race and ethnicity in the workplace. One of the ways we can do this is to just start having conversations on what it feels like in organisations from a BAME background…”
Supporting business leaders
Business leaders need to learn how to talk about race and ethnicity issues. We’re still a long, long way back from where we are now with gender.
Research shows that even today, in modern multicultural Britain, many managers still feel deeply nervous talking about race and ethnic diversity at work. Every manager in the UK should be able to talk about difference with their teams in an inclusive way, and we need to see far more leadership from senior business leaders on this issue. CMI’s new network, CMI Race, will put diversity and inclusion at the heart of good management and drive real change in the years ahead.
Breaking the silence on race and ethnicity in the workplace
We need to break the silence on race and ethnicity in the workplace. One of the ways we can do this is to just start having conversations on what it feels like in organisations from a BAME background. During our research, leaders actually said to us that sometimes they find it uncomfortable getting into conversations about race for fear of offending a colleague, or sometimes just not having the right language to use.
Organisations can tackle the lack of BAME representation in their businesses in a number of different ways. Young leaders of colour say to us there is a lack of transparency around role models, access to mentoring and sponsorship. Organisations should really focus on how they ensure that all individuals across the business know how to access those really important development tools for help needed to progress.
Seven Steps for Action
- Break the silence. Leaders need to re-boot the conversation on race, show commitment and communicate a clear business case for change to deliver diversity.
- Learn from the gender agenda. Business has shown that it can generate momentum to make change happen, with inclusive leadership at all levels and transparency about strategies, targets and progress.
- Face the numbers: measure it, manage it, report it. Companies need to measure BAME diversity at every level of the management pipeline.
- Tap into the power of sponsorship. Senior leaders need to actively seek out and meet diverse emerging leaders to sponsor them and support their development.
- Build diversity through ‘next up’ leadership. Role models and mentors at the next level up – not just remote role models at the top of business – can be powerful forces for change. Use innovative models like mentoring circles and reverse mentoring.
- Be inclusive and adaptive. Build adaptive cultures that respond to the differences people bring to work. Make it clear that the company values difference so no minority employee is left questioning whether they fit in.
- Benchmark and collaborate. Businesses should compare performance with others in their sector and collaborate on ways to accelerate change.
The Delivering Diversity report, which includes case studies from leading companies like Aviva, Google, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Sainsbury’s, Schroders, and Virgin Money, is available at www.managers.org.uk/deliveringdiversity
About the Delivering Diversity research
Delivering Diversity incorporates several strands of research carried out by CMI and researchers at several universities through the British Academy of Management. It included:
- analysis of the ‘public face’ of all FTSE100 companies through a web-based evaluation of their diversity policies and practices
- an online survey of FTSE100 HR and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leads on current diversity practice regarding BAME representation, conducted between March and June 2017 among 24 leaders, plus roundtable discussion with 13 companies
- 26 lived experience interviews with pairs of BAME and non BAME managers at similar positions in the same organisations, exploring experiences of working life in FTSE100 companies
- in-depth employer case studies with leading companies including Aviva, Google, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Sainsbury’s, Schroders, and Virgin Money
- Report authors include:
- Professor Nic Beech, Chair of BAM, Vice-Principal (Academic Planning and Performance), University of Dundee
- Professor Nelarine Cornelius, BAM Council (Research and Publications), School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London
- Dr. Lisi Gordon, School of Management, University of St Andrews
- Professor Geraldine Healy, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London
- Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna, Cardiff University Business School
- Dr. Gurchathen Sanghera, School of International Relations, University of St Andrews
- Chidozie Umeh, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London