Since its launch in October 2020, Change the Race Ratio has been driving change at the heart of business. Change to increase ethnic and racial diversity in the workplace, but specifically among the boardrooms and senior leadership of the business community.
Businesses that sign up to Change the Race Ratio (CtRR) are asked to make four commitments to change: to increase racial and ethnic diversity among board members in line with the parker review recommendation, increase racial and ethnic diversity in senior leadership, to be transparent on actions, and to create an inclusive culture in which talent from all diversities can thrive.
Through tangible action, collaboration, shared learning and transparency, signatories are challenging each other to do better, while opening the door for more to follow. Initially, a collaboration between a cross-section of 15 founding businesses, institutions and organisations, the list of signatories is now closing in on the 100-mark.
“What’s really powerful,” says Laura Sanderson of executive search firm and CtRR founding partner Russel Reynolds, “is when company leaders establish a movement of peers to challenge one and other and engage one and other.”
That movement is galvanised by a shared learning experience. “Change the Race Ratio created a platform for a number of really interesting, and often underrepresented minority businesses and consultancies to present to signatories and talk about how they can help,” says Sanderson. “A lot of it is about filling the toolbox with the right tools.”
What gets measured gets done
Change the Race Ratio is not a retrospective exercise, it does not matter what your starting position is; it’s about moving forward together. No business, no matter where it is in its journey will be judged on anything but the next steps. And it’s how those steps are made that gives CtRR signatories vital insight.
At ITV the opportunity for diversity and inclusion doesn’t just come in the boardroom and the off-screen workforce. “On-screen representation is really important because that's how people see ITV,” says Ade Rawcliffe, Group Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the broadcaster, where 26% of lead roles on main channels have been filled by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic talent since July 2020, compared to 21% previously. “We’ve measured that data,” adds Rawcliffe, “which means we can have different conversations and make decisions about how to include more people.”
Signing up to CtRR was a timely opportunity for ITV. It had just published its Diversity Acceleration Plan in July 2020 – a strategy informed by its employee networks and set out to steer the future of the organisation to one that remains relevant, successful and profitable.
“What I found really interesting, is being able to learn best practices from other industries,” says Rawcliffe, who recently attended at CtRR workshop on disclosure. “I spend a lot of my time talking to BBC and Channel 4. Now I'm having to chance to speak to Diageo, for example, and benefit from that cross-sector experience.”
Sharing for the greater good
Other signatories are in the early stages of improving diversity. Some face different challenges, such as meeting national averages when operating in regions that are underrepresented in ethnic and racial diversity.
“Being part of the community has helped us focus on the importance of data. Hearing the journeys of other organisations has been extremely valuable in informing our approach to this challenge,” says Nicky Upritchard of Pennon Group. The Southwest-based utility company’s board was committed to improving its racial and ethnic representation but wrestling with the best approach to tackle it. “We looked at the sentiments of the campaign, and it absolutely resonated with what we wanted to do,” says Upritchard.
Joining CtRR gave Pennon Group access to the insight of other signatories and, importantly, it recognised that it didn’t matter where an organisation was in its journey. “Understanding the steps that other businesses have found have worked well for them has been really helpful for us. It’s also given us access to lots of other research and discoveries that we probably would have struggled to find for ourselves.”
Taking a public step has big benefits
Putting commitments into the public eye is brave, but ultimately vital and rewarding. Pennon Group has since run a highly successful graduate recruitment programme – achieving a 35% diversity rate. “That is a figure that would not have been achieved historically,” says Upritchard. “Candidates find it very reassuring that we are also publicly stating that this is something we want to build on, that we’re really making sure that people feel that there is a place for them in Pennon Group.”
The educational institutions signed up face different challenges too. “In universities at council level it's a bit like boards – you can bring on external diverse members. What's much harder to sort out is your executive,” says Professor Sue Vinnicombe CBE of CtRR founding organisation Cranfield University.
Prof Vinnicombe sits on the Parker Review – the independent review into diversity on boards – the findings of which underpin the commitments set in CtRR. She recognises the work that needs to be done at universities such as Cranfield, not just in terms of senior leadership, but in a faculty that needs to reflect its students. “Young people are looking to work in diverse organisations. They’re interested to work with people who are very different from them,” she adds.
Newer institutions – the Post ‘92 cohort – are outperforming the older ones in terms of diversity of leadership and faculty, explains Prof Vinnicombe. She hopes that more such universities sign up and help inform the older institutions. “I hope that happens in all the different sectors,” she adds. “There are a few standout FTSE companies like Diageo, Unilever, GSK where the gender pay gap’s very narrow, and it would be really interesting to hear what they are doing differently.”
So why should your business sign up for the campaign?
As Lord Karan Bilimoria, CBI President stated when the campaign launched, evidence shows boards that have racial and ethnic diversity perform better – McKinsey data from 2019 highlights that in the case of ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability.
But it’s not just about doing the right thing for your business, it’s about joining a movement of businesses doing the right thing for society.
If Change the Race Ratio proves anything, it’s the importance of diversity of thought – the diverse range of the businesses working together, as opposed to competing with one another, show how, like individuals, they can draw on their differences to make an impact as one.
“The power of a collective voice will always be more successful than standing alone as a business,” says Caroline Rhodes of Diageo, which has set targets to increase the representation of leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds to 45% by 2030.
“We can’t drive change alone, we must work together as a wider business community to share ideas, learnings and best practices,” she adds.
To any business thinking of signing up, Rhodes has one message: “Do it!”
If you are interested in becoming a signatory and taking action, please contact Richard DeNetto.