What if the issues obstructing the development of black and minority ethnic (BME) talent in the workplace magically disappeared? A ground-breaking report by Baroness McGregor-Smith suggests that the UK economy would be a mind-boggling £24 billion better off!

The Government-commissioned report, Race in the Workplace: The McGregor-Smith review, aims to give employers, both in the private and public sector, the tools to improve diversity and remove the stumbling blocks that see far too many BME employees disadvantaged in the workplace.

Race in the workplace

The report author’s own journey illustrates the heights that can be achieved for more of us if the system wasn’t so flawed. Baroness McGregor-Smith received a CBE for services to business and diversity in business in 2012 and became a life peer in 2015. Born in India, she arrived in the UK with her mother aged two, joining her father (an accountant), going on to graduate with a degree in Economics. McGregor-Smith eventually became the first Asian female chief executive of a FTSE 250 company.

Race in the workplace
Baroness McGregor-Smith. Image Credit: Edward Robinson

Her report outlines some of the barriers in business that are hindering the development of BME talent in the workplace. Some of the findings make for a sobering read. The report highlights the slower rate of progression for BMEs and the nature of discrimination that occurs. Smith found that: “BME individuals in the UK are both less likely to participate in and then less likely to progress through the workplace, when compared with white individuals.”

Other excerpts include: “14% of the working age population are from a BME background. Yet, our contributions are not being valued or taken seriously enough, and it is the economy’s own loss.” And: “If BME talent is fully utilised, the economy could receive a £24 billion boost.” With the seemingly slow growth of the British economy, how can an opportunity like this to maintain the economy overall, be ignored?

McGregor-Smith also found that:

“There is discrimination and bias at every stage of a BME individual’s career, and even before it begins.”


To eliminate such blockages, McGregor-Smith advocates a ‘roadmap to success’ for businesses to use as a model. Headlines of this roadmap include:

  • Gather data
  • Take accountability
  • Raise awareness
  • Examine recruitment
  • Change processes
  • Government support

The report also found a frustrating common occurrence: “BME groups are more likely to be overqualified than white ethnic groups but white employees are more likely to be promoted than all other groups.”

The report also acknowledged: “Only one in 16 top management positions are held by an ethnic minority person.”

The Government welcomed the opportunity of realising an additional £24 billion to the economy in its response to the review and put forward their recommendations to address the situation.

On the whole, McGregor-Smith’s review only confirmed what many of us knew to be true already. In a speech she made in May 2016, McGregor-Smith said:  “I imagined a world where only skills and experience were discussed, not ethnicity, gender or any challenges regarding diversity..”

Only time will tell if this world Smith once imagined will soon become a reality and we begin to see a more level playing ground for BAME workers.

Read the full report: Race in the workplace

Image credits: www.123rf.com.

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