Number of black FTSE 100 leaders drops to zero due to "vanilla boys' club" of senior leaders

The number of black people at the top of Britain's biggest companies has fallen to zero, as new research has found that there are fewer black people at the top of FTSE 100 firms than ever before.

The chance of an increase in black representation at the highest levels of British business looks slim, as the numbers in the leadership pipeline have decreased over the past year from 1.4% to 0.9%, according to recruitment and diversity consultancy Green Park.

The research found that for the first time in six years, there are no black chairs, chief executives or finance chiefs at the top of Britain’s biggest companies.

Green Park chair Trevor Phillips said talented black people did not stay at big firms because they felt they would be used as "window dressing", hired simply to look good.

Phillips also said that a "vanilla boys' club" of senior executives was to blame.

According to the research, at FTSE 100 board and executive committee level, the percentage of black executive directors and non-executive directors (1.1%) has also fallen since its first report in 2014 (1.3%).

Frank Douglas, CEO of management consultancy, Caerus Executive, said as a former FTSE 100 HR director, he was one of only two total on the index.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said that while it is disappointing there are no black chairs, CEOs or CFOs in the FTSE 100, it is worse than that: there are no black chief human resources officers.

He said: “In short, not one black person holds the strategic keys of change in the FTSE 100.

“One of the keys to change is for the entire executive team to personally own the diversity and inclusion agenda as it pertains to black staff and other UK ethnic minority groups.”

Douglas said that without personal commitment and emotional investment executives tend to be left with two choices, outright rejection of the agenda or lukewarm acceptance – and these findings are a product of that.

Douglas added: “To move from this to ‘all-in’, executives must take the time to deeply understand why the recruitment, retention, progression and inclusion of black staff, in particular, creates value for their particular business/department/function.

Sophie Chandauka, co-founder of the Black British Business Awards, said accountability for the race agenda is not just a HR issue.

She said: "Accountability lies with organisational leadership, and change cannot happen without the absolute commitment from the top. HR directors also highlight the significant pressure on the most senior and visible minority employees to be advocates for the race agenda, noting that businesses place the burden of responsibility on already marginalised employees rather than committing organisational resources to the issue."

The Black British Business Awards' The Middle report suggested HR directors shift the organisational narrative from cultural diversity and under representation as a problem to solve to a resource that is under utilised.

Chandauka added: "Organisations should evaluate both their formal policies and their informal practices, ie ‘the way we do things around here’, in order to determine which behaviours might negatively impact on ethnic minority talent progression and in order to make the changes needed to optimise diversity at higher organisational levels.

"Ultimately long-lasting change will happen when HR directors are bold enough to begin to revise the current rule book and dismantle the intricate structures that have produced differentiated outcomes for ethnic minorities."

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