Business leaders Jaffer Kapasi and Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith are concerned by the lack of ethnic minority representation in Britain’s companies.


by NADEEM BADSHAH

BRITISH-ASIAN entrepreneurs and campaigners are split on whether ethnic quotas should
be launched in an effort to tackle the lack of diversity at senior levels in the UK’s top firms.

There are no ethnic minority women currently in charge of a FTSE 100 company.

Research from Operation Black Vote found that just three per cent of the county’s most powerful people are black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME), while figures show ethnic minorities make up 14 per cent of the UK population.

Separate research from the Fawcett Society charity said fewer than one per cent of senior positions go to BAME women.

The government is consulting with businesses on whether to introduce mandatory reporting on ethnicity pay gaps. While some campaigners believe they are needed, others feel there are better options, such as anonymous CVs.

Jaffer Kapasi OBE, from the East Midlands Chamber, believes quotas “would not be the answer to increase BAME representation”.

He said: “I would prefer publishing of the figures in their annual report. This would ensure transparency and openness. HR departments should be well trained and made aware of the imbalance and they can play a key role in addressing the issue. Employment on merit should be the policy.”

A report by consultancy firm McKinsey in 2017 found that businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15 per cent more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35 per cent more likely to excel.

India-born Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith was CEO of outsourcing firm Mitie but left in
2016. She joined facilities management company Q3 as its nonexecutive chairwoman last year.

In a recent speech, she said businesses may need to adopt quotas to increase diversity. She explained: “It may be the only way we can do this. Everyone involved can make a real difference – the next generation needs it.”

Kapasi, from Leicester, added: “Any organisation should reflect the diversity of the community where they do business. This helps to create confidence and also increase
the Gross Domestic product (GDP) there.

“There is a significant lack of racial diversity at the top of UK organisations. We’re seeing changing population demographics in terms of ethnicity, age and other personal characteristics, which means employers already taking action will be on the front foot in
being able to attract talent from a wider talent pool.”

Am Golhar, founder of Abstract PR and co-founder of the Inspired Business Woman group, told Eastern Eye: “I feel it is only right to address these quotas in FTSE firms. How else would this awareness be raised and corrected to changing this for the next generation
to come?

“We should not be judged on the colour of our skin, neither our gender, but be fairly treated on our skills in the jobs we do.

“I sit in a committee group at the Institute of Directors called Inclusivity on Boards to
raise awareness of more BAME women in business and leadership roles on boards. This is what it seems to have come to, raising awareness of our colour when this should not be the case.”

Sukhi Wahiwala, CEO of the Wahiwala Group of Companies, told Eastern Eye: “I believe there is a fine line between selecting individuals to be politically correct based upon their non-merit as opposed to their skills set.

“People should be seen on their own merit and equality of understanding that they can deliver what is required of the job with the required skill set.

“Nobody should be favoured ifthey are BAME, non BAME, on their ethnic background or whether they are male or female. I believe that all candidate [choices] should be based on their ability to deliver what the job requires.

“All applications should be done in a non-gender or backgroundspecific manner; based purely on an individual application number without specific name or gender identifiers. I think this is a good way to ensure equality of boardroom and board ventures.”

Meanwhile, in English football, teams in the second division and lower must interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior jobs.

Last year, The Football Association said it would interview at least one applicant from a BAME background for future roles in the England set-up to adopt its own version of the Rooney Rule that stems from American football.

Only six per cent of FTSE 100 bosses are currently women. In 2011, the government-backed Davies review set targets for 25 per cent of FTSE 100 boards to have female representation by 2015, a goal which was met.

According to figures published in November, companies are “on track” to meet the goal of having at least a third of females on FTSE 350 boards by 2020.

Meanwhile, research in April showed the gender pay gap has grown or stayed the same at more than half of companies in Britain. The number of firms paying women less than men has grown since last year, from 77 per cent of organisations to 78 per cent.

More than two-fifths of those businesses with over 250 staff have a larger average salary gap than they did last year, while eight per cent saw no change.

Dr Omar Khan, director of thinktank Runnymede Trust, believes firms that dismiss the idea
of racial quotas “should consider what measure they would support given current policies aren’t working. It will take 50 to 100 years for some industries to reflect the diversity of the UK’s population”