Only a quarter of companies have taken action on racial inequality since Black Lives Matter protests

Chantel Le CarpentierProject Manager - Diversity Research
September 28, 2020, 6:42 PM UTC

This is despite most (86%) business decision-makers saying that companies have a role to play in tackling racial inequality

The killing of George Floyd earlier this year in the US sparked a global wave of protests calling for action against police brutality and discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Companies on both sides of the Atlantic have made public statements of solidarity with grassroots campaign organisation Black Lives Matter and have declared their support to fighting racial inequality.

New YouGov research with business decision-makers uncovers that while over eight in ten (83%) would feel comfortable taking on racial discrimination in their workplace, just 26% say their organisation has taken new steps to improve diversity and inclusion as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Likewise, a majority (55%) say that there had been no change on the prioritisation of achieving a good standard of internal diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Fewer than a third (30%) say that this has become more of a priority over the past year.

It may be the case that companies are still prioritising diversity and inclusion but believe that they are already doing an adequate amount in this area. This poll finds that a higher proportion (78%) of decision-makers feel that their organisation is meritocratic (that is to say, people are able to progress on hard work regardless of their background), than think that UK society as a whole is meritocratic (52%).

These beliefs are undermined by data from Business in the Community, whose recent update to their 2014 report Race at the Top found that just 1.5% of managers, directors and senior officials in the UK are black; an increase of just 0.5% over the last six years.

The government-commissioned McGregor-Smith Review in 2017 uncovered that while one in eight of the working age population are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background, just one in ten of the workforce are.

If those from minority ethnic backgrounds are still underrepresented in the workplace, particularly in high level positions, is it true that in general, organisations are truly meritocratic? 

Could a belief that their workplace is meritocratic create complacency? YouGov’s poll finds that 85% of decision-makers feel either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ informed on the actions that they or their organisation can take to improve diversity, and a majority (53%) say they would not benefit from more guidance in this area.

See the full results here