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Why diversity in the boardroom matters and how to make it happen

As Britain’s top firms come under the spotlight for failing to address ethnic diversity in the boardroom, SMEs are likely to be shuffling their agendas and lowering their gaze too. The harsh reality is that 47 FTSE 100 companies still do not have any Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) executives on the board and the percentage of BAME directors is actually falling, according to the latest figures from recruitment consultancy Green Park.

These worrying statistics were uncovered in a study, which also found that there are very few BAME candidates in the career pipeline who could be selected or developed for senior executive roles in the next few years. The situation was further highlighted by a government report which found that there was little change in the ethnic diversity of public sector workforces between 2014 and 2018.

My message to boards is that diversity needs to be addressed at every level of your organisation, not just in terms of ethnicity but also in relation to age and gender.

One powerful way to achieve change is to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer. Around 50% of US companies now have someone allocated to this role, with targets and objectives laid out to ensure progress is being made, year on year. The idea is gaining traction in Europe too. Indeed, German tech firm SAP has already achieved its target of having 25% of leadership roles held by women and recently created 100 internship roles for refugees. That company  also operates an inclusive hiring programme Autism at Work.

The risk of failing to address diversity is not just missed targets. As we discussed in our article about millennials in the boardroom, people of different ages and backgrounds encourage innovation and new ways of thinking. That in itself can make the difference between success and failure in a competitive and fast-changing market. A different perspective in board meetings can help you to develop a culture that will appeal to a more diverse workforce, which in turn can help you retain and attract talent rather than losing your best people to key competitors.