D&I | BBC makes director redundant in breach of own diversity rules

BBC makes director redundant in breach of own diversity rules

The BBC this week announced a series of major structural changes to the Board of its BBC News division, which included making several members of staff including Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed redundant – a move that leaves the corporation in breach of its own rules on minority ethnic representation.

The Guardian reported that the cuts, according to BBC News Director Fran Unsworth, were said to have been undertaken to streamline the Board from 11 to eight people in a move that Unsworth stated will, “deliver more value and better reflect the way BBC News will work in the future”.

However, with the loss of Ahmed, the BBC News Board currently has no BAME representation at all despite this being in breach of its own 2019 policy stating that all senior leadership groups must have at least two staff members from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Ahmed joined the BBC in 2014 in the position of business editor, and went on to hold the role of economics editor before being promoted to a Board position, with Unsworth commenting at the time that he would “bring verve, ambition and fresh editorial insight to the role and I’m thrilled he’s joining my top team”.

Ousted in the cuts were Head of Current Affairs Jo Carr, Head of News Output Gavin Allen and Ahmed, who was at one point, according to reports from The Guardian, hotly touted as a potential candidate to take over the position of outgoing Director General Tony Hall.

“I would like to thank [outgoing Board members] for their outstanding contribution to BBC News to date and we are exploring future options for them,” Unsworth, in an email to BBC staff, as reported by The Guardian. “Change is never easy, but it is important to have this new structure in place.”

The Independent reported that, according to the firm, the diversity gap was only temporary and would be adjusted as remaining places on the newly structured Board come to be filled.

A BBC spokesperson told the publication: “The final membership of the BBC News board has not been announced. Two out of the eight posts — a quarter — are currently vacant.”

The BBC isn’t the only company currently being criticised for its lack of BAME representation; a CNN report recently revealed that there are no Black CEOs, CFOs or chairs in the FTSE100 index for the first time in six years, according to a study published on Wednesday by Green Park, an executive recruitment and diversity consultancy agency.

Only ten of 297 people in the three top leadership positions do not identify as white, the same proportion as in 2014, the research found.

Why is diversity at Board-level important?

Whilst the BBC’s actions go against its own targets for BAME representation within its Board, the adverse effects on the company’s leadership and direction as a result of a lack of representation may be significant. Boards are in place to help companies broaden their perspectives in the decision-making process. Having a Board that does not reflect either the workforce or the general public in terms of diversity means that insight will be limited by a lack of unique perspectives.

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Currently, this stark drop-off in diverse leaders does not reflect the growing diversity among the workforce; according to CNN data, Millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse in history. Only 56% are white, compared to 72% within the baby boomer generation.

And it seems that refusing to acknowledge this issue has a drastic impact on access to talent. Glassdoor stated that 67% of jobseekers consider workplace diversity as an important factor in deciding on an employer, and 50% of workers want their company to do more to increase diversity.

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