CIPD should take ‘positive action’ to boost racial diversity in HR

A leading diversity expert has called on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to take “positive action” to increase the number of HR professionals from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Atul Shah, founder of consultancy Diverse Ethics and a leading commentator on workplace diversity, said there was a dearth of ethnic minorities working in HR, and little action to tackle the issue. He warned that unless changes were made, HR risked missing out on talent and struggling to maintain the drive to boost workplace diversity.

According to the last Census in 2001, there are a total of 313,650 HR and training professionals in the UK. Of these, 94.1% stated their ethnic origin as white.

Writing on, Shah said: “While the CIPD actively promotes the business case for diversity, does it actually practice it in terms of its own membership or workforce? Why is it then that it has no ethnic minority board members, vice-presidents or senior management?

“There is considerable scope for change and positive action; simply saying that the membership is open and accessible to all is not good enough, in my opinion.”

He called on CIPD bosses to commission research on the barriers to entry to the HR profession for ethnic minorities, as well as examining the experiences of existing ethnic members.

The CIPD said it asks members on a voluntary basis, when they first join, to disclose their ethnic origin, but admitted the data it held was “sparse and unrepresentative”.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “We do not actively seek to directly influence any aspects of the demographics of the profession. Instead, our commitment is to ensure fair access to the profession for anyone, regardless of their individual background.

“We have been working with the government’s Fair Access to the Professions panel, and are also active members of the Professional Associations Research Network’s ‘Equally Professional’ group, where we exchange ideas and best practice on diversity.”

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