“The unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from.” Wasn’t the CEO of Wells Fargo right when he pointed this out in September 2020?
Not on the evidence of the proven talent in finance and the professions in the UK. It defies common sense to assume that the individuals listed here are ‘unicorns’, just as it is absurd to assume that similarly successful white leaders in finance and the professions are one-offs. The more realistic view is that there is a large pool of highly talented Black individuals out there with leadership potential similar to that of the proven talent referred to above, whom corporations or firms could recruit, retain and develop if they were determined to look for them.
Furthermore, data from a number of Reports and Studies reveals the real cause of the current dearth of Black talent in senior grades. As the 2020 Race At Work Black Voices Report shows, Black senior managers in the private sector in the UK have a far greater number of degrees, masters or PhDs than their white counterparts. And yet in the top management roles across UK private sector organisations, just 1.5% are held by Black executives. As the Parker Review has noted, there may be longstanding talent bias against Black executives and professionals, which has led to a severely constricted pipeline – a situation graphically demonstrated in the USA by the McKinsey/LeanIn Report of 2019.
Even if we want to develop our pipeline of Black talent, surely the targets are unattainable given the current pipeline of Black talent?
This is addressed by the Fundamental Objective, which every signatory firm and every supporter of the Charter acknowledges; and by the Core Commitment, which every signatory firm pledges to accept. The Fundamental Objective and the Core Commitment are so called for good reason.
It is not mandatory to hit every target at the first attempt; what is important is to show an improvement and a clear direction of travel. The essence of a target is that it is something which one strives to hit. And there is no shame in missing a target if one has done one's best to hit it. The obvious analogy is with a training programme in a gym, where challenging targets drive improvement. The success of the Women in Finance Charter also demonstrates this very clearly.
The lack of current pipelines of Black talent has constantly been used as an excuse for doing little or nothing. Setting challenging targets will create a pipeline where none exists, and it will improve the volume and rate of flow up the pipeline where there is one. There is little point in setting targets which can already be met or which can be met without difficulty - progress will not be achieved in that way. One explanation for the lack of progress from some previous initiatives is that they have been very unambitious and have taken points of least resistance in order to secure maximum sign-up. Committing to truly meaningful action may involve a small act of corporate courage to change current practices and to set targets which challenge the corporation, but the reputational risk of doing nothing will outweigh the reputational risk of striving in good faith to meet targets but just falling short (again, see the audits of the Women in Finance Charter).
We are concerned that we won’t be able to meet the targets, despite our best efforts
See the previous answer. This is not a competition. By signing the Charter, each firm expressly accepts as a Core Commitment that its targets will be ambitious and that they may therefore not be achieved, but that this will not deter them. Every signatory firm is in the same boat in this respect.
What if the targets proposed in the Charter don’t work for our management structure or the way in which we train and develop our staff?
This possibility is recognised and catered for in the sixth pledge. The pledge makes it clear that the targets and delivery timescales proposed are a general presumption. However, it is recognised that signatories to the Charter will include organisations of different sizes, status, maturities, business models and approaches to recruitment and career progression; and that the general presumption may therefore be inappropriate for some of these firms. Accordingly, if the presumed targets are inappropriate for your firm for such reasons, you are free to diverge from them if you can demonstrate that your bespoke targets are (a) more suitable for your organisation and its business model, and (b) more likely to drive change in the same way and at the same rate as the presumed targets.
Are targets for Black talent simply quotas or tokenism?
Targets are not quotas. They are simply milestones against which progress can be measured as part of a disciplined strategy for change. A principal mission of the Charter is to minimise the risk of ingrained prejudices and biases that have been shown for decades to discriminate unfairly in favour of the majority to the disadvantage of Black employees. The goal is to create a more level playing-field to enable Black applicants and employees finally to compete for recruitment, work allocation, promotion and career progression on an equal footing with their colleagues and counterparts in the majority. This is not to demand preferential treatment or mandatory promotion of Black employees (as suggested by the loaded term, "tokenism"), but simply equal treatment or ‘levelling up’. This point is fundamental, and it lies at the heart of the ongoing global debate about inequality.
As the authors of The ‘Middle’ Report (2017) observed:
“What gets measured gets done. Why do so few companies have aspirational targets for BAME talent progression? If we are comfortable with targets for every other key performance indicator for business objectives, why not for the measurement of BAME progression if we are serious?”
The same applies to targets for the recruitment, retention and progression of Black talent.
Should the Charter not be a charter for BAME talent, rather than a charter for Black talent?
It is well established that there is a particular problem with the recruitment, retention and promotion of Black talent in business and the professions, as opposed to, for example, Asian or Chinese talent. This is confirmed by reports and studies, as well as anecdotal evidence.
There is a clear need for a focus on Black representation, given the particular problems faced by Black talent, and this is one of the points that have emerged loud and clear from the global debate following the death of George Floyd. Lumping all minorities together under the BAME acronym masks this problem, and many people now accept that the acronym must be retired for this reason.
There is already a Race at Work Charter which aims to tackle ethnic disparities in the workplace. Why is this different?
The Race at Work Charter covers all sectors of employment and all ethnic minorities, whereas this Charter focuses on Black talent in the financial services sector and the professions. In addition – and importantly – the pledges in this Charter are different from and more defined than those in the Race at Work Charter, and they focus on enhancing accountability, data collection and metrics to drive and maintain lasting change. However, the two Charters are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are complementary and mutually supportive, they both drive the commitment to improve equality of opportunity and firms can and will be signatories of both.
How will the Annual Review of the Charter work?
Data from signatory firms will be collected and analysed by independent consultants. The consultants will prepare an annual review of progress on the Charter pledges and the Fundamental Objective by the signatory firms as a cohort. The annual review will not critique individual firms.
How the data is aggregated and presented in the annual review will depend on the information provided by signatory firms. This will be a matter for discussion and consultation with the consultants conducting the analysis and review.
Guidance on data collection by signatory firms will be issued in consultation with the independent consultants.