Tackling the injustices that hold people back

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Government, employers and communities must all do more to tackle ethnic inequality

When Theresa May was elected in July 2016, her opening mandate was to tackle injustice. “We believe that how far you go in life should be based on your talent and how hard you work – and nothing else,” she said.

The Race Disparity Audit emerged from that declaration, to examine how people of different backgrounds are treated across areas such as health, education, employment and the criminal justice system.

It reveals alarming disparities between the success of ethnic groups – particularly in the workplace. For example, 80% of working-age people who identified as 'White Other' in the Audit were employed in 2016, compared with just over 50% of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi group. In terms of occupation, 40% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers were concentrated in the three lowest-skilled occupation groups.

There are plenty of statistics in the report, but one message is clear: there is still a way to go before we have a country that works for everyone regardless of their ethnicity. And it requires a concerted effort by the government, employers and communities to build that country.

Creating a balanced workforce

CA Technologies is committed to helping create a balanced workforce within the business and the wider tech industry. Our global diversity and inclusiveness programme Thrive has helped balance the company’s ethnic talent in the UK.

We’ve also established an ethnicity-focused workgroup of employees to develop initiatives that help CA Technologies attract, recruit, develop and retain BAME talent. These initiatives include celebrating and spreading awareness of BAME events like Black History Month, Diwali and Eid-Al-Adha. Staff from all ethnic origins also undertake unconscious bias training, participate in reverse mentoring, and have the opportunity to take part in a leadership development programme.

There’s more work to be done though. Across the technology sector BAME groups are well-represented in back-office functions such as finance and admin, but under-represented in customer-facing roles such as sales and marketing. And the further up the career ladder you look the less BAME ethnic groups are represented.

Every organisation should be a reflection of its customer base, and ethnic groups equally shared across all departments and levels of seniority inspires improved diversity, enhanced customer relationships and greater innovation. McKinsey’s seminal Diversity Matters study from 2015 also found organisations in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean.

Ethnicity and educational outcomes

It all begins with education. According to the Race Disparity Audit deeply entrenched gaps remain in educational outcomes for different ethnicities. For example, 65% of Indian pupils met the expected standards for reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2 compared with 47% of Pakistani pupils. And 54% of Black African pupils met the expected standards for reading, writing and maths compared with 43% of Black Caribbean pupils.

This culminates in a shortfall of diverse talent. Everyone – the government, employers and communities – need to work harder to create inclusive environments that attract, recruit, develop and retain a diverse mix of skills and talent. This starts with initiating more programmes to reduce the skills shortfall in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and attract more ethnic students to careers in technology. For example, in preschool it means talking openly about the strengths of diversity, and later on it means engaging students to realise the exciting role of STEM.

Ethnic inequality affects a broad range of groups and can have widespread destructive fallout across any society. But the impact on BAME communities is not only among the most egregious, it reinforces avoidable and extreme inequality and stunts opportunity for generations. Make no mistake, the ethnicity gap will not be closed overnight. However, policymakers everywhere must do much more to tackle it. Global economic growth and the stability of our democracies depend on it.

Narinder Phull is director of financial planning and analysis, and lead of UKI ethnicity at CA Technologies

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