According to new research from the FRC most UK companies’ approach to board ethnic diversity is unsatisfactory, where a majority of the Boards of FTSE 100 still remain all-white. While there has been some movement in reaching the targets and recommendations since the first Parker Review (published in 2017), 37% of companies surveyed in the FTSE 100 and 69% of FTSE 250 have not met the target of at least one ethnic minority director on their Board. Over half of FTSE 250 companies fail to mention ethnicity in their board diversity policy, and most of the FTSE 350 do not set measurable ethnicity targets.
The Review set a target for each FTSE100 board to have at least one director of colour by 2021 and for each FTSE250 board to have the same by 2024.
There are now global expectations on Boards – failure to act can be just as damaging to our companies’ reputations, not to mention weakening shareholder and stakeholder confidence. 75% of FTSE 100 revenues are earned outside of the UK, in markets which include the 9 countries, that will generate half of the world’s population growth between now and 2050 – five of which are in Africa and three in Asia. Ethnic diverse boards will be a competitive advantage.
There is a real inertia and a persistent unwillingness to be open, to be inclusive and to value diverse experiences and perspectives. It could be seen as if the difference based on ethnicity is not of sufficient value, but the real value of including diversity is in the difference itself.
The Parker Review asks Board Chairs to be the agents of change. They need to start by changing conversations, changing practices, changing expectations, changing minds and ultimately changing organisations.
The question for corporate Britain is not about whether the non-white talent is there or ready, the question is whether it is willing to appreciate it, attribute commercial and competitive value to it and change the historical constructs operating currently in the boardroom and more broadly in our corporate institutions.