A report by Cranfield experts, published by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), has examined the barriers to senior leadership for people from minority ethnic groups in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies.

The report, Navigating barriers to senior leadership for people from minority ethnic groups in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, shows that while there are still significant challenges to be addressed, the impetus for change has been taken seriously across the spectrum of principal stakeholders, including senior managers, executive leaders, board chairs and executive search consultants.

Dr Deirdre Anderson, Director of the Gender, Leadership and Inclusion research centre and lead author of the report, said: “Our research shows that it’s essential for organisations to continue to build trust among their employees. Not only will this encourage self-identification against all diverse demographics, it will also provide accurate and complete data for monitoring progress against race and ethnic equality goals. This will help organisations expand on existing good practice and continue to dismantle the existing structural barriers towards greater equity.”

Challenges include being overlooked for promotion, overt and covert racism, and having to demonstrate higher standards, compared with colleagues from majority backgrounds, to progress or have the same development opportunities.

Exploring the lived experiences of senior leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds through interviews and focus groups, the report suggests that, while minority ethnic executives lead successful careers and run successful businesses, they also have to adopt strategies such as ‘blending in’ and minimising their difference to get on, or ‘standing out’ to define their brand and celebrate their difference. 

CEO of the FRC, Sir Jon Thompson, said: “With the power of these personal insights and experiences that go beyond the data, I hope this report can help advance the conversation about how to successfully increase diversity in senior positions on boards and create sustainable pipelines of diverse talent to fill both executive and non-executive roles.”