There is a worrying lack of visible business role models for the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community, according to new research from diversity-specialist executive search company Audeliss.

When asked to name business leaders from the BAME community in a timed environment, just 34 percent of BAME respondents could recall even one role model. In comparison, three quarters of the Caucasian respondents could name at least one white business leader.

In May 2016, a report by UPstanding – an initiative established by Audeliss to champion and support the BAME business community – found that only three percent of FTSE 100 CEOs were not white. The significant diversity deficit at the very top of Britain’s biggest businesses  is responsible for the lack of visible BAME role models across all roles and sectors including technology, law and finance.

Not only were fewer BAME respondents able to recall a business leader, but of those who could a third chose leaders within the entertainment industry.

Female role models of ethnic minority background are further underrepresented:  a miniscule 12 percent of respondents cited any female BAME leaders with 75 percent of the named women  working in entertainment: Oprah and Beyoncé are the only two women in the top 10 most readily recalled business leaders. Conversely, there are no women in the non-BAME list named by white respondents, with globally-known business leaders Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Bill Gates winning the top three positions.

The business case for a visibly diverse organisation is well supported. Research reveals that 70 percent of the UK population are more likely to buy products from or use the services of a company that  they consider to be inclusive of all minorities and diverse in its approach to employment, and a mammoth 86 percent of the UK population believe that it is  important for people at the very top of organisations to promote messages of diversity and inclusion. Diversity also has a direct impact on business success: recent research from McKinsey evidences that diverse businesses outperform their competitors by up to 35 percent.

Manjit Wolstenholme, Non-Executive Director at Provident Financial plc and voted No.2 in the UPstanding Top 100 BAME Power List 2016, commented:

“This research reflects the urgent need for many more black, Asian and minority ethnic executives on boards if they are to reflect the diversity of our workforce and our customers. Only by continuing to profile, champion and provide a platform for BAME role models, will we create a pipeline of diverse talent within our companies and succeed in diversifying our most senior positions.”

Suki Sandhu, Founder and CEO of Audeliss agrees:

“There is a worrying diversity deficit at the very top of global organisations and businesses are missing out on incredible talent. The BAME community is full of intelligent, creative and highly skilled individuals, but we need to show younger generations that they can succeed in business. Celebrating the achievements of diverse business leaders is a powerful tool in increasing the visibility of role models for younger people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and therefore helping to support the diverse leaders of tomorrow.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.