Parker Review: Companies need to talk about race


I was thrilled to be at the launch, yesterday! The report is a much need and belated wake-up call focussing on the under representation of BAME in the upper levels of FTSE companies. In addition, I ...

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The Parker Review highlights the lack of ethnic diversity in boardrooms and the need to talk about the issue

Corporations need to talk about race more to improve ethnic diversity at senior levels, according to John Parker, chair of mining company Anglo American and lead of a government review into ethnic diversity in Britain’s boardrooms.

Parker was speaking at the launch of the Parker Review. It calls for every FTSE 100 board to have at least one person from a BAME background on it by 2021. Currently only 8% of director positions in the FTSE 100 are held by BAME people, and only 1.5% are BAME UK citizens.

“This is an arena many of us in the corporate world find hard to discuss, perhaps because we worry about getting the subtleties of language wrong,” Parker said. “But we can’t let anxiety get in the way of action. When 75% of FTSE 100 sales come from overseas, are we really [meeting] the challenge of aligning our board composition with our customers?”

The Parker Review recommends companies work on strengthening their leadership pipeline of BAME talent and offer strategic mentoring and sponsorship opportunities. Although much of this could be classed as an HR activity, Parker said it's critical this agenda isn’t “siphoned off to HR”.

“It must be owned by the chair and embedded in succession planning in the boardroom,” he said.

Business minister Margot James, also speaking at the event, said it's “unacceptable” that there are still 53 boards in the FTSE 100 that don’t have any BAME representation. “We are missing out on voices and perspectives in the boardrooms of Britain’s leading companies,” she said.

“Companies should be doing so much more to identify and sponsor people with potential and there should be stronger terms for search firms,” she added.


I was thrilled to be at the launch, yesterday! The report is a much need and belated wake-up call focussing on the under representation of BAME in the upper levels of FTSE companies. In addition, I hope that it will help expand the heretofore narrow definition of diversity= gender but also LGBT, disable and BAME. It will require HR to take a leading role in this Talent issue. However, a first step would be for the HR profession/CIPD to also look in the mirror and recognise that while it is exemplary in terms of woman in top roles, it has been silent on BAME. And, the HR profession, itself, does not have ethnic diversity in senior HR roles ( I was the first BAME male Group HRD of a FTSE, 10 years ago). Recently , I saw a session on diversity lead but 4 panelist and, ALL were white (not trying to be provocative, just a fact). So first we must 'heal ourselves.' As has been shown in the US - you can focus on gender, BAME, disable and LGBT at the same time. So now is the time for HR-UK to show the world we can walk and chew gum at the same time, in regards to diversity. Finally, I am optimistic in that I have been working/consulting with some forward-thinking companies on BAME progression and retention. Let's hope more follow - very quickly and, don't spend the next 1-2 years discussing a business case. If you want a business case -- next time you have a gathering of your top 100 (input your number) managers, look around the room -- and, there is your business case (I guarantee it). @fdoug23 Frank Douglas, FCIPD CEO, Caerus Executive


As a current postgraduate HRM student affairs such as race; inclusion, diversity, and equality in the workplace are areas that I understand that HR does have a significant impact within organisations to instill. I wholly agree that this impact cannot be left solely for HR to embrace. Everyone makes a difference whether top-down or bottom-up.

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