More than half of senior executives in UK organisations believe it’s harder for employees from ethnic minorities to get promoted, regardless of their performance.
Executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates found that 54% of C-suite leaders think it’s more difficult for those from certain ethnicities or backgrounds to gain access to senior roles.
Forty-four percent of UK executives acknowledge that the leadership of their company is biased towards employees from similar backgrounds, beliefs or ethnicities, it added.
However, senior leaders seemed to be more aware of the structural barriers affecting certain groups in the workforce than their employees. Globally, 62% of C-suite leaders thought there were barriers to promotion for ethnic minority employees, while 40% of employees felt this to be the case.
In Europe, 52% of C-suite executives recognised bias in recruitment while 31% of employees did so, suggesting the UK is broadly representative of other territories.
Diversity and inclusion
Laura Sanderson, leader of the Board and CEO Advisory Practice at Russell Reynolds, said the figures would come as no surprise to those who have “first-hand experience of being excluded from senior roles”.
“Businesses increasingly recognise that they need to look for talent in new places. Yet too often, after going to the trouble of finding the right talent, they mismanage development and fail to provide equal opportunities,” she said.
“UK leaders are clearly aware of the structural biases holding back minority ethnic employees. But concern needs to translate into action.
“There is so much leaders can be doing to debias their promotion decisions, from changing candidate specifications to scope talent in, to including a more diverse range of voices in decision making. Individuals need to be supported by inclusive leaders who take personal responsibility for sponsoring their success.”
Sanderson added that while the UK government has stopped short of mandating ethnicity pay gap reporting, businesses should not shy away from collecting diversity data.
Business groups including the CIPD have called for the government to make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory for employers with more than 250 staff.
Sanderson said: “Our findings also underline just how important it is to collect better diversity data. Ethnicity pay gap reporting is a vital tool to help understand where minority ethnic workers are being held back and to measure progress. Any business in the UK that can collect this data should do so.”