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BAME community lacks business role models

Professional female role models from an ethnic minority background were also underrepresented

Only 66% of the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community in the UK can name a BAME business role model, according to research from diversity specialist and executive search company Audeliss.

When asked to name BAME business leaders in a timed environment just 34% of BAME respondents could recall even one role model. In comparison, three-quarters (75%) of the Caucasian respondents could name at least one white business leader.

Not only were fewer BAME respondents able to recall a business leader, but of those who could a third (33%) chose leaders within the entertainment industry. Female role models of ethnic minority background were also underrepresented with just 12% of respondents citing a female BAME leader, 75% of whom worked in entertainment.

The five most commonly-recalled BAME business leaders were Lakshmi Mittal, Oprah Winfrey, Mukesh Ambani, James Caan and Jay Z. The most recalled white business leaders were Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, Bill Gates, Philip Green and Mark Zuckerberg.

Manjit Wolstenholme, non-executive director at Provident Financial, called for urgent action. “This research reflects the urgent need for many more black, Asian and minority ethnic executives on boards if they are to reflect the diversity of our workforce and our customers,” she said. “Only by continuing to profile, champion and provide a platform for BAME role models will we create a pipeline of diverse talent within our companies and succeed in diversifying our most senior positions.”

Suki Sandhu, founder and CEO of Audeliss, agreed. “There is a worrying diversity deficit at the very top of global organisations, and businesses are missing out on incredible talent,” he said. “The BAME community is full of intelligent, creative and highly skilled individuals, but we need to show younger generations that they can succeed in business. Celebrating the achievements of diverse business leaders is a powerful tool in increasing the visibility of role models for younger people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and therefore helping to support the diverse leaders of tomorrow.”