It’s time to talk about the ethnicity pay gap

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The gender pay gap and the lack of BAME representation at senior organisational levels has been well-documented, but both are often viewed as separate topics

Despite a recent Bank of England report revealing that ethnic minorities in the UK earn 10% less than their white counterparts, the ethnicity pay gap is rarely discussed.

As a modern society, this is not acceptable.

We often discuss the gender pay gap, but these discussions neglect to mention the ethnicity pay gap looming across all sectors. While both are important, only the former gets consistent attention on a national level.

Staggeringly, 95% of companies surveyed by PwC have not analysed their ethnicity pay gap.

This needs to change if we want to truly tackle inequality in the workplace and society.

Mind the (ethnicity) gap

As in most industries, the social care sector has a diversity problem, particularly when it comes to promoting individuals from a BAME background into leadership roles.

Our analysis of 36 of the biggest care home and home care providers found that just 5.4% of their board members come from BAME backgrounds.

This is wholly unacceptable as a standalone statistic, but it is particularly stark when you consider that people from ethnic minority backgrounds make up 21% of the wider care workforce.

Indeed, research has shown that BAME groups are more likely to work in low-paid sectors such as hospitality, retail and social care.

Opportunities for growth exist in all sectors – I’m a living example of working my way up in a challenging sector – but not everyone has the chance to benefit from these opportunities.

There are business reasons for ensuring BAME workers have the opportunity to progress, with a rising body of evidence from several industries showing the link between business performance and companies that rank highly on ethnic diversity. I have seen first-hand that having people with different backgrounds and different perspectives in the room leads to more innovative thinking and reduces blind spots that can arise when your leaders all belong to the same demographic or have similar lived experiences.

The next generation of leaders

While we are a long way from achieving equality across all key demographics (such as ethnicity, gender and wealth), industry leaders can and should take immediate action to close the ethnicity pay gap.

If we want the next generation of leaders to be more diverse, and more representative of society, it is down to our current leaders to take positive steps to promote change straight away.

One of the ways they could do this would be by paying their employees on merit and ensuring that development and mentoring schemes are available so that they are not 'stuck' at the bottom of the career ladder.

Over the past 15 years, I have mentored many people from BAME backgrounds and there is no shortage of ambition in the talent pool.

I fully appreciate people in senior leadership roles are busy people, but it is worth remembering that the little time and effort it takes to help out others can have a far-reaching impact on individuals, their families, communities and on the overall business.

Mentoring is also incredibly rewarding for leaders and it is a great source of pride to see people promoted to roles they previously thought were unattainable.

Just as companies being named and shamed for their gender pay figures has become an increasingly accepted way to try and tackle the gender pay gap, so too must publishing an ethnicity pay gap which would hopefully then lead to more companies taking more concrete action to reduce their pay disparities.

It’s vital we shine a light on the way BAME groups are sidelined and overlooked when it comes to employment opportunities and pay.

We must do more to not just tackle these disparities but ensure that people are encouraged and supported to enter leadership roles – and get paid appropriately for the work they do.

There is much progress to be made but the bottom line is that improving diversity and inclusion in organisations is good for people, good for business, and good for society.

Ravi Bains is chief executive of Grosvenor Health and Social Care

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