The number of senior business leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds has not significantly increased since the death of George Floyd sparked global protests and $50bn (£40bn) of corporate pledges to address racial inequality in the workplace.
Three years on from the killing of Floyd at the hands of US police officers, which prompted chief executives including Apple’s Tim Cook and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs to declare that leaders also need to do more to address racial disparities in their own companies, nearly 70% of office workers say their firms have not increased the number of black, Asian or ethnic minority leaders.
The poll of 2,000 workers, carried out by research company Perspectus Global, found that while change has been slow to come, almost 70% of British companies have embarked on various initiatives to address racism in the workplace since 2020.
In the wake of Floyd’s killing, corporations pledged $50bn in the US alone on racial equity initiatives, such as donations to civil rights organisations, investments in ethnic communities and overhauling recruiting and training programmes.
“So many companies pledged to do better on diversity after George Floyd’s killing,” said Marcus Whyte, founder of executive search company Zyna Search. “But if we look at the FTSE 100 today, there are no black chief executives or chairpersons. I would like to see meaningful and measurable progress with black, Asian and ethnically diverse employees represented at all levels of businesses.”
The study found that 57% of black staff felt they had been passed over for promotion, with 59% believing the decision was due to the colour of their skin.
Almost half of black staff said they have had to anglicise their names to make it easier for a colleague to pronounce, while 60% felt that they had to “code switch” – adjusting aspects of their appearance or language to conform to perceived workplace norms.
“It is a positive sign that work to address racism in the workplace had begun in offices across the country,” said Whyte. “But the report shows more work still needs to happen, especially in terms of senior leaders and those with influence and power in the workplace.”