Diversity – Paranoia or a real issue – part 2

A few key highlights from the recent Parker’s review

  • 2016 report asked FTSE250 to have at least one ethnically diverse director on their boards by 2024. Circa 100 of the 350 biggest companies did not even respond to the survey with enough data
  • Of the 256 that did respond, 150 are currently failing to meet the target
  • FTSE-350, British citizens who are directors of colour held only 61 board posts, accounting for just 2.3% of all directors
  • 8 companies account for almost quarter of all the directors of colour
  • Only 15 occupants of chair or chief executive roles are not white - a tiny proportion in a country where roughly 14% of the population is ethnically diverse
  • Sir John Parker expresses criticism of the headhunters responsible for recruiting directors at top companies "We, as company chairmen and chairs of nomination committees, need to be more assertive - not least by refusing to accept the headhunters' excuse that 'the candidates just aren't there'. "For my part, when I hear this message from my consultants, my next step is to find better consultants who can find the talent either at home or in our world of 7.7bn people."

Interesting to note that we haven’t seen much change since the previous report in 2016.

I wrote an article ‘Diversity – Paranoia or a real issue’ on the back of the 2016 report where I questioned its significance.

The fact that 150 of the biggest companies are failing to meet the targets, 100 didn’t even bother to provide relevant data, only 2.3% of all directors are from an ethnic demographic and 8 companies account for almost quarter of all directors of colour indicates that there is an issue. 

However, are these eye-opening statistics reflective of the bias at a senior level or purely down to the fact that there isn’t the talent or experience available?

I am also interested by Sir John’ criticism of headhunters and his suggestion to utilise a wider range of consultancies. Well, whilst I welcome his suggestion, it rarely happens. As a boutique headhunter who has experience of working within industry and understands propositions etc, I like to think that I am better placed than a lot of the well-known bigger brands within executive search. However,

I also understand that many of the bigger companies in the UK, including PE’s are prestige buyers.

Their default will always be to go with the big brands because they can always point to that variable as an excuse when they cannot locate the most suitable candidates.

Regarding presenting a diverse range of candidates, this has always been a natural process for us. I suppose coming from industry my approach has always been to identify

a) experience b) skill set, and most importantly c) behaviours. Ethnic background, gender etc has never crossed my mine. 

Maybe this is because most of my assignments are focused around ‘building’ a business and most of the diverse talent are within this circle…

Is the whole diversity and inclusion discussion all lip service or are we serious about finding the right solutions? Actions speak louder than words…

By Sunil Dial