BBC to boost diversity by ending shortlists with no black candidates

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The BBC plans to increase the proportion of black and ethnic minority staff with its announcement that all shortlists for posts, above certain grades, will include at least one non-white candidate.

The new protocol will apply above the broadcaster’s band E – to middle and senior-ranking posts – including editors, producers and presenters. The organisation’s executive committee and divisional leadership teams will also have at least two people from ethnic minority backgrounds by 2020.

Currently there are no black people filling the 96 highest ranked leadership roles at the BBC.

All leadership and development programmes will be expected to have considerable ethnic minority representation as part of their overall cohort and accountability for diversity and inclusion targets, and ethnic minority career progression will be included in senior leadership team objectives and progression reviews. These measures, the BBC states, will help build a “sustainable BAME mid and senior leadership pipeline”, backed by “robust succession planning” across the organisation.

The plans were included in a report issued on Wednesday, which states that its purpose is to effect “significant change”. It promises a “statement of intent” on diversity and inclusion that all employees will be expected to abide by.

Cultural awareness training will be made mandatory for all team managers, says the report, on top of the current compulsory unconscious bias programme.

Suki Sandhu, CEO & Founder of INvolve, a recruitment and diversity specialist, called on other companies to follow the BBC’s example: “We are delighted to see the BBC leading the charge on banning all-white shortlists. While their track record hasn’t always been perfect, it’s clear they’re leading the way in addressing bias – we need more companies to put their money where their mouth is and actively work to effect positive change.

He added: “Shortlist quotas can sometimes be a contentious issue. But, in order for us to achieve true equality in the workplace, we don’t need to lower the bar or our expectations. As the BBC is demonstrating, it’s about levelling the playing field – ensuring that diverse communities are getting access to the best opportunities, and that companies are getting access to the best talent pool.

BBC director-general Tony Hall was keen to state the report’s ambition. He said the plans included “a range of proposals which we believe will transform the BBC. By better reflecting the broader population we will make better programmes that reflect the lives interests and concerns of everyone.

“The proposals build on our existing initiatives, which have been making a difference, but this is now a real chance to accelerate change in an unparalleled way.

He added: “Today’s report is a huge step forward. There no question of whether we implement it. We will. This is a great opportunity. We will grasp it.”

The BBC already has a diversity and inclusion policy in place that includes 15% targets for the percentage of black and ethnic minority staff in leadership roles by 2020.

Further reports will be published by the BBC in the autumn on plans to improve the career prospects of women, disabled people, LGBT people and people from “different” social backgrounds.

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