The number of Black executives working at the leadership level of the UK’s top 100 companies has fallen to zero, according to a new report.
An analysis published on Wednesday by Green Park, a recruitment and diversity consultancy, found that there are no Black chief executive officers, chief financial officers, or chairpersons in the FTSE100 for the first time in six years.
The FTSE100 refers to the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and includes companies such as Coca Cola, Rolls Royce, and GlaxoSmithKline.
Green Park, the consultancy, said that very little progress had been made in terms of the representation of ethnic minorities at the top echelons of British business since 2014, when they began their annual reporting. Black leaders in particular have been overlooked.
“While the numbers of most other minority ethnic groups in these top positions have increased by a small amount since [the] first report in 2014, the number of Black leaders at FTSE 100 companies has stalled and then dropped to zero,” the report said.
In 2021, only 10 of the 297 people in the three top leadership positions at these companies do not identify as white, they said.
"The snowy peaks of British business remain stubbornly white," Trevor Phillips, the chair of Green Park, told CNN. "We know there is no shortage of qualified candidates to fill these roles if companies are willing to look.”
The situation is reflected at board level too. At the FTSE100 board and executive committee level, the percentage of Black executive directors and non-executive directors is 1.1%, having fallen slightly from 1.3% in 2014.
And the leadership pipeline — meaning the senior managers currently moving up through the company — doesn’t look set to improve this situation much either.
Green Park’s report found that ethnic minority representation in the leadership pipeline had fallen from 10.7% last year to 9% this year.
The release of the findings coincide with Race Equality Week, a new UK-wide initiative to unite organisations and individuals in tackling racial inequality in the workplace.
Race Equality Week was set up in the UK in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests that took place in the summer of 2020, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in the US.
The purpose of the week, from Feb. 1 to 7, is to improve the accountability and action needed to remove the barriers facing ethnic minorities in the workplace, the website explains. The tagline is: “Let’s not go back to normal.”
Commenting on the report, Phillips suggested that companies saying they support Black Lives Matter should heed the findings. “It is time that shareholders, consumers, and employees start questioning whether Black Lives Matter is just rhetoric rather than reality,” he said.
Phillips was the chair of the UK’s inaugural Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up in 2006 as part of the Equality Act — which is the country’s legislation outlawing discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, or religious belief.
“Corporate leaders need to stop telling us how much they care and do something to show us that Black lives really do matter," Phillips added.