Boardroom diversity | 'Racist old boys' network' shuns BAME workers from top jobs

'Racist old boys' network' shuns BAME workers from top jobs

BAME employees face constant discrimination in some of Britain’s largest businesses that are run by an ‘institutionally racist old boys' network’.

Independent research carried out by the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) Managing Director and Head of HR, Anuranjita Kumar, has found that BAME employees are 90% less likely to land a Boardroom job than white, middle-class applicants.

The research suggested that BAME candidates stand only an eight per cent chance of promotion to a chief executive, chief financial officer or other senior director role as a result of racial prejudice and nepotism that takes place in workplaces across the UK and internationally.

Kumar’s research found that however capable they may be, BAME applicants were consistently overlooked because their cultures and religious beliefs were seen to be at odds with most company’s ‘private members’ club mentality’.

Instead, it seems that existing Board members want ‘like-minded’ individuals to join their ranks and therefore rarely consider anyone whose views, way of life or upbringing may be different from their own.

Kumar’s research is based on more than 600 hours of conversations and meetings with over 500 male and female BAME professionals, including 125 of which were from the UK. Each respondent admitted to feeling like their ‘face didn’t fit’ despite taking part in good interviews and having the desired and relevant qualifications needed for the role.

Of these, three quarters described the recruitment panel, which was typically made up of existing Board members, as an ‘old boys' network’ and that the promotion process they experienced was ‘institutionally racist and biased against people of colour’.

Meanwhile, just four per cent of survey respondents said that they were successful but felt obliged to adopt western mannerisms and to tone down their accents during the interview.

“Global organisations today thrive on close-knit and diverse teams,” said Kumar.

“Yet, having interviewed and coached hundreds of people from multi-ethnic, multi-professional backgrounds from across the world, there can be little doubt that much of the global workplace remains entrenched in institutional racism.

“BAME professionals are faced not only with antiquated prejudice but also with the challenges of understanding the invisible rules and codes that are self-evident to the majority but unfamiliar to a new or different society.

“Based on the feedback of those people I have spoken to and mentored, and taking existing studies into account, I believe strongly that BAME individuals – whether male or female – are at least 90% less likely to be selected for a top-tier role than white applicants.”

Back in 2017, the UK’s biggest firms were given four years to appoint one Board director from an ethnic minority background as part of a Government initiative to improve diversity within Boardrooms throughout Britain.

However, despite this companies are failing to meet their targets. A progress report from October 2018 discovered that the number of FTSE 100 company directors from ethnic minority backgrounds had dipped with just 84 of the 1,048 director positions in the 100 biggest companies being held by a BAME business leader.

Kumar added: “Those companies that judge employees on the colour of their skin and not as human beings are stuck in a time-warp and will, without exception, become irrelevant in the modern marketplace over coming years.

“Whether they like it or not, the world is changing and companies that fail to adapt and embrace multicultural, progressive change are likely to wither and die.”

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