BITC: Why should business talk about race at work?

Earlier this month, Business in the Community published the findings of our Race at Work survey. 24,457 people told us their experiences of race at work, making it the largest ever survey of its kind in the UK.

One in four children of primary and secondary school age in the UK is from a Black, Asian and Minority (BAME) background and one in eight people of working age is BAME, but only one in 16 at senior levels of business in the UK is from a BAME background. Race at Work shows that BAME people are more ambitious than their white peers and enjoy their work, and some are more likely to be included in succession planning. However, whilst BAME employees want to be part of a fast track or management programme, this is not reflected in their rates for nomination to these programmes. We also know from our Gender and Race benchmark that they are less likely to be identified as high potential. So what can employers do to change this?

BITC Race at Work Pyramid Vision

Firstly, we need to start talking about these issues. People are far more comfortable discussing gender and age at work than race, but employers often tiptoe around it. Yet people in the UK were three times more likely to take Project Implicit’s Implicit Bias Test for racial bias than for age, gender or disability, suggesting this is something they want to talk about. Terminology is a barrier for many, but not talking is the biggest barrier of all.

Employers must also show leadership. It may be difficult to confront the fact that your workplace culture might not be fully inclusive, but using this knowledge to drive strategic change can impact positively on employees and the organisation as a whole. Senior leaders within organisations of all sizes must step up and engage as champions and executive sponsors for diversity – including race.

Having employees who are ambitious, motivated and enjoy their work is the stuff of employers’ dreams. But unless organisations make the most of their employees’ skills and abilities, they risk losing out on talented people and on financial benefits to the business. The changing profile of the UK workforce – its age and its ethnicity – means employers must act now to ensure their workplaces and employee progression pipelines reflect the full diversity of their customers, clients and service users in the UK and globally.

24,457 voices cannot be ignored. So what are you waiting for?




Business in the Community is the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. Their members work together to tackle a wide range of issues that are essential to building a fairer society and a more sustainable future.

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