Diversity & racism failures: 'I heard the N-word in a Board meeting'

Diversity & racism failures: 'I heard the N-word in a Board meeting'

With news that six in ten Boardrooms still don’t have an ethnic minority presence, revelations about treatment and racism at the top of the British workplace might not shock as much as they should.

These poor stats come despite the fact that Sir John Parker’s government-backed review into diversity on Boards concluded that the biggest firms should have at least one non-white Director by 2021.

Yet, in the face of attempts to improve diversity at the apex of British business, The Guardian has revealed that there are instances of open racism in the boardroom. These are sparking calls for genuine change.

The UK broadsheet collated a series of reader’s experiences and views on racism and diversity within UK employment.

Writing to The Guardian, one reader, Joanna, said: “The candidate pool for any CEO position should by law be at least 14% ethnic minority.”

Another, Serena, added that “there need to be financial penalties for organisations who fulfil equal opportunities requirements by having BAME staff but then keep them at the bottom.”

Alongside this, James revealed: “I heard the Managing Director use the phrase “we have to find the n***** in the woodpile” twice in a Board meeting. I have countless other examples of racially driven sexual innuendos, having my head rubbed, being referred to as aggressive. Recently one person described me (I’m a public school-educated company director) as ‘street’”.

What’s clear is change is needed to tackle these misconceptions. Marvin Rees, the Labour Mayor of Bristol, recommends genuine conversation to tackle what he calls “a system of power.”

He added: “We have to speak about privilege as well as racism so that we can begin to dismantle it.”

EU regulators are currently looking at corporate regulations in the banking sector, in attempts to improve diversity in this sector by 2020.

The rules will suggest that each bank have a diversity policy, which includes aspects such as career planning and equal opportunities for all staff. 

Have you enjoyed this piece?

Subscribe now to myGrapevine+ and get access to exclusive new content, and the full content archive.

Comments (1)

  • James Rees
    James Rees
    Tue, 3 Oct 2017 8:34am BST
    This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of behaviour that exists within many companies but whether it is as obvious as these examples is another matter. What we do know is that this is unacceptable however what shareholders need to grasp is that it also seriously impacts business performance, which means they have an economic reason to support change.

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.