On 12 September, the CIPD and EY hosted a dinner to discuss Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation in the workplace. Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith delivered the keynote address to a room of more than 30 senior HR professionals, including representatives from the BBC; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Fujitsu; Barclays; EDF and Aviva.

In her keynote speech, Baroness McGregor-Smith, who led the Government’s review of race in the workplace in 2016, welcomed the impetus for making a difference while acknowledging that very few know how to, or feel comfortable enough, talking about race. Explaining that one in four primary school pupils has a minority ethnic background, she urged the HR profession to keep an eye on the future.

Baroness McGregor-Smith called on employers to recognise the importance of data and aspirational targets. Without an understanding of the baseline, she argued, progress is hard to measure. She reiterated the need for employers to publish pay gap data by race, and voiced doubt as to whether a voluntary approach alone would be enough to encourage employers to report.

CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese stated how unacceptable it is that in 2017 there is still a significant lack of racial diversity at the top of UK organisations. Only one in 16 top management positions are held by an ethnic minority person, yet one in eight of the working age population are from a BME background.

As well as there being an undeniable moral case for change, Peter argued that the diversity of ideas, perspective and ways of working afforded by people of different backgrounds and identities will benefit individuals, organisations, society and the economy.

Peter recognised the central role that the HR profession has in making this change happen, as it is ideally placed to challenge and address people management practice at all stages of the employee lifecycle to ensure it is built on the fundamental principles of trust, equality, fairness and inclusion. 

Due out this Autumn, new CIPD research will review the existing evidence base on BAME representation in the workplace. It will also include findings from a new survey of 1,200 employees (700 BAME, and 500 White British) and case studies of employer best practice. The report will set out a number of recommendations for both employers and policy-makers.

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