The research from INvolve, the consultancy and global network for diversity, equity and inclusion in business, comes as it releases its annual Empower Role Model Lists of individuals in global business who are opening up opportunities within the workplace for people of colour.
- Over twice as many new entrants to the AIM Index have an ethnically diverse CEO compared with both the FTSE 100 and AIM 100
- INvolve’s founder, Suki Sandhu OBE, calls for companies to ensure diverse senior leadership isn’t lost as they grow
New entrants to the FTSE AIM Index are over twice as likely to have an ethnically diverse CEO than both the FTSE 100 and AIM 100, new research has found, demonstrating the need for the UK’s largest corporations to address the diversity deficit at the very top.
The research reveals that 15% of the 105 new AIM entrants since 2020 have an ethnically diverse CEO, compared to just 7% of the FTSE 100 and 6% of the AIM 100. Clearly, while British business is full of highly successful, diverse senior leaders and entrepreneurs, these numbers sadly dwindle upon reaching the UK’s top companies. The wealth of diverse talent in the UK still faces significant barriers to progressing to the very highest levels.
However, the data also demonstrates the potential power of diverse entrepreneurship for driving progress in diverse senior leadership. 50% of ethnically diverse CEOs of new AIM entrants are also the company founders. In comparison, of the AIM 100 companies with an ethnic minority CEO, just one is founder-led.
The research, released by INvolve to mark the release of the annual Empower Role Model Lists supported by YouTube, demonstrates a potentially more diverse future for UK business, while also showing how far the largest organisations still have to go in their commitment to the inclusion of ethnically diverse talent, particularly in the most senior positions. While the latest Parker Review found that nearly all (96%) of FTSE 100 firms now have at least one ethnic minority director on their board, this level of representation is clearly not reflected at the very top of these organisations.
The annual Empower Role Model Lists celebrate business leaders who are playing a central role in breaking down barriers at work for ethnically diverse talent and those who are leveraging their platform and influence to keep diversity and inclusion at the top of the agenda.
The global lists feature Role Models from 51 countries, reflecting different stories, experiences and strengthening the cohort with increased intersectionality.
Suki Sandhu OBE, Founder and CEO of INvolve, says: “The fact that new AIM entrants are more likely to have an ethnically diverse CEO is an encouraging sign that there is an appetite for change within some businesses. As a founder and CEO from an Indian Sikh background, I feel especially proud that many of the new AIM entrant CEOs are also the company founders. It’s my hope that these leaders will continue to drive their companies forward and that this positive representation is maintained, and indeed improved upon, as the organisations grow.
At the same time, to see the figures from the FTSE 100 and AIM 100 that show such a widespread lack of diverse senior representation across the board is horrifying. We cannot allow the UK business landscape to continue to be defined by this glaring lack of diversity, especially when I know first-hand that there is a huge amount of diverse talent out there. If businesses are maintaining barriers to progress and making it far too difficult to break through, it’s clear that they are only paying lip service to the idea of ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’.
Urgent work evidently needs to be done to ensure that progression to CEO level is attainable for all employees, regardless of their background. Talent development programmes can be instrumental in instilling the tools and skillsets employees need to succeed and levelling the playing field, particularly when it comes to reaching the very top. Of course, we know that senior role models are also crucial for aspiring talent, paving the way for future leaders to move into leadership positions. It’s why we continue to be so proud to showcase the many inspiring leaders breaking barriers for people of colour in our Empower Role Model Lists.”
Titi Cole, CEO Legacy Franchises at Citi, tops this year’s Empower Executives list: “It’s a privilege to be an Executive Role Model and help remove obstacles on the professional path for other diverse talent. Driving equity in the workplace across industries and uplifting the next generation of leaders is a responsibility that’s shared by all and good for all.
When we see it, we can believe it – so having ethnic minorities in senior leadership roles shows others what’s possible. It can also give companies a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the best talent from all backgrounds. At Citi, we’re committed to creating a company that reflects the diverse communities we serve, across all levels of the firm. We embrace a multitude of perspectives to truly understand our clients’ challenges and opportunities and help them prosper.”
Esther Akinwolemiwa, Institutional Sales at Wells Fargo, is named at number one in the Empower 100 Future Leaders List: “I realised early on, that to get the most fulfilment from my life and career, I must positively impact the communities I am privileged to be part of. This motivates me to actively seek opportunities to give back, within and outside my organisation, that utilise my skills and experience. I am extremely honoured to be chosen as one of INvolve’s Empower Role Models – especially as it’s a recognition for activities that bring me joy!”
Christophe Beck, Chairman & CEO at Ecolab, is named the leading Advocate for ethnically diverse individuals in the 2023 list: “I’m extremely honored to be included alongside so many great leaders on the INvolve Empower 100 Executives Role Model List,” said Christophe Beck, Chairman and CEO of Ecolab. “I accept this recognition on behalf of our incredible Ecolab team who continue to champion diversity, equity and inclusion every day. At Ecolab, we strongly believe that fostering a culture of belonging and embracing diverse perspectives are essential for our continued growth and success. That’s why we’re unwavering in our commitment to promoting diversity and equity within our company and in the communities where we operate.”
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