Hire women of colour, pay them well, promote them, UK companies are told

© Reuters.

By Darnell Christie

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A leading group pushing for gender diversity set British business a new goal on Wednesday – hire more women of colour, pay them properly and help them reach the top of the corporate ladder.

Global protests over race and the impact of COVID-19 have brought “a time of change, a time of acceleration” to the 30% Club that was launched a decade ago, said Anne Cairns, global chairwoman.

The club’s original mission was to see women represented on at least 30% of corporate board seats in Britain.

In line with growing calls for equality across all walks of life, Cairns said she now seeks to see 175 women of colour with executive roles in Britain’s largest companies by 2023.

“The glass ceiling is still pervasive, and women of colour face some of the greatest hurdles of all,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We just haven’t seen Black people or people of colour really finding it easy to climb the corporate ladder,” she said.

Currently, women hold 32% of board seats in the U.K.’s top 350 publicly traded companies, according to Hampton-Alexander Review, an independent, business-led initiative supported by the government.

The number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic U.K. board members was about 7%, and the number who were chairs, chief executives and finance directors was about 3%, according to a study released in late 2019 by recruitment consultancy Green Park.

The global protests over race and disproportionate toll the coronavirus has taken in the Black community show the wide-ranging impacts of inequality, and Black working women were doubly hit, she said.

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“Quite honestly, the wage gap between a top-performing white man and a woman of colour is massive. You have a double jeopardy going on, being both a woman and a woman of colour,” she said.

In mid-June, the British government launched a commission into racial disparity, saying it was weighing possible legal changes to require companies to report their payroll information based on ethnicity.

The move came after a government decision that large companies would no longer have to report gender-based pay gaps, due to the impact of COVID-19 on business.

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