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Rishi Sunak's appointment as prime minister spotlights diversity in senior roles

With the appointment of the UK's first ever British Asian prime minister in Rishi Sunak, the country has been heralded by some for taking a positive step forward for the representation of minoritorised ethnicities.

Yet despite Sunak's heritage, his personal wealth and economic background have led people to question the diversity he brings to the role.

HR magazine asked what lessons can be learned about senior level representation from Sunak's appointment.

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Shakil Butt, founder of HR Hero for Hire

"Rishi Sunak’s appointment is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is just that, a step. It does send a positive message to the next generation of ethnic heritage backgrounds that the most powerful role in the country is possible but has to be taken in the context of Sunak’s privileged upbringing. It is not about blood, sweat and tears to break through the barriers. Sadly the statistics show those barriers are still in place.

"Sunak’s father was a GP and his mother ran her own pharmacy. Sunak studied at Oxford University attaining a first-class degree and did his masters at Stanford. He married the daughter of billionaire and founder of Infosys. This is not representative of the majority of the migrant South Asian community who are often found in insecure work and underpaid in comparison with their white counterparts.


"If he doesn’t succeed I fear the trolls will link it to his racial heritage although that has nothing to do with his competency"


"When Barak Obama won the presidency of the US, it resulted in a backlash with white nationalist rhetoric and hate speech being the reaction that has subsequently shaped the landscape. There were early indications that Sunak’s appointment could result in something similar occurring in the UK at a time when there is a rise in far-right rhetoric across Europe.

"Sunak has a difficult task at hand that his predecessors failed to deliver on the promise of Brexit so it remains to be seen if he is going to be able to turn the corner on the current economic crisis

"All that said and done, I know there will be children within the South Asian community thinking when I grow up I want to be the prime minister – no longer just wishful thinking on their part as that glass ceiling is looking far more fragile now."


Deborah Carter, managing director, PreperationTech foundation

"Representation does not necessarily mean impact or change. We only have to look at how many people of colour the Republican party is recruiting for upcoming elections while supporting policies and practices which disadvantage people of colour.

"It's great that Rishi Sunak is the first UK prime minister of Indian origin, but I have not heard one thing about how he has used his representation to benefit, mentor, support, speak up in defence of people of colour, immigrants, refugees, low-income people or home owners struggling with their mortgages. I do know his party has pressed forward with sending refugees arriving in Britain to Rwanda."


Rutger Bruining, CEO and Founder, StoryTerrace

"The appointment of Rishi Sunak as prime minister marks a historic moment in British history, especially in documenting the impact that the British Asian community has had on this country. Stories and histories of ethnic minority figures are all too often pushed to the margins – so it is heartening to see the public's attention turn towards Sunak and his background.

"We conducted some research which states that one-in-three people from an ethnic minority background feel out of place in their workplace. Sunak's appointment hopefully acts as a catalyst in diverting our attention to the vital role that representation plays in the corporate world. Having someone from an underrepresented background hold the most important role in the nation hopefully will encourage the next generation of leaders and changemakers.

"A key part of StoryTerrace's ethos is detailing the trials and tribulations that people have faced on the road to success – and I hope that Sunak's appointment will send a message to not only corporations, but the nation in general, that more attention needs to be put on elevating and championing the journeys of Brits from all backgrounds."