Is it time for businesses to adopt ethnicity quotas?

Companies are coming under increasing pressure from staff, clients and investors to make their boardrooms more diverse, and while women are making some inroads, there is still a long way to go for ethnic minorities.

In 2011, the Government-backed Davies review set ambitions for 25pc of FTSE 100 boards to have female representation by 2015 – a target that was met. The Hampton-Alexander Review built on the work of the Davies Review, setting out a separate target to increase the number of women on FTSE 350 boards. According to figures published in November, companies are “on track” to meet the goal of having at least 33pc representation of women on FTSE 350 boards by 2020.

While the figures make for depressing reading (only 6pc of FTSE 100 bosses are currently women), the picture is bleaker still for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women, of which there are none currently at the helm of a FTSE company. Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, says fewer than 1pc of power positions go to BAME women.

“This clearly represents a huge waste of talent and expertise, as women of colour are not given the chance to get to the top,” she adds.

Separate research from Operation Black Vote (OBV), a not-for-profit organisation set up with the aim of getting more black and minority ethnic communities represented in the political system, found that just 3pc of the county’s most powerful and influential people are BAME, while Government figures show ethnic minorities make up 14pc of the UK population.

Quotas are one of the ways in which businesses can address the lack of diversity in their boardrooms, but they are also highly controversial – often considered detrimental to a business because it is forced into hiring someone due to their gender or race and not because they are necessarily the best candidate for the role.

Critics also claim quotas represent “reverse discrimination”, while supporters argue that they are necessary to ensure racial and gender diversity in the workplace.

Prof Binna Kandola, author of Racism at Work: The Danger of Indifference, strongly believes that quotas should not be used in the workplace because it creates a stigma of incompetence for those in a particular minority group…

Read the full article on The Telegraph.

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