There are no black executives in any of the top three roles at Britain’s 100 biggest companies for the first time in six years, according to a report on boardroom diversity.
Annual research from the executive recruitment and diversity consultancy agency Green Park shows that the number of black leaders at FTSE 100 firms has stalled since it first reported in 2014 and has now dropped to zero. The cruise operator Carnival, which is run by a black chief executive, Arnold Donald, dropped out of the FTSE 100 last summer, and the South African businessman Fred Phaswana has retired as the joint chair of the packaging and paper group Mondi.
Overall, the number of people from most other minority ethnic backgrounds who hold the role of chair, chief executive or chief financial officer has increased by a small amount in that period.
But the lack of black executives means that only 10 out of 297 leaders (3.4%) in these top three positions have ethnic minority backgrounds, the same proportion as when Green Park first began its analysis of FTSE firms in 2014.
However, the report found that black representation at the top of British businesses looked unlikely to improve in the near future, with the number of people in the leadership pipeline also decreasing, from 1.4% to 0.9%.
This means it is unlikely that the FTSE will meet the government-backed target, set by Sir John Parker in his 2016 review, of bringing an end to all-white boards by the end of this year.
Trevor Phillips, the chair of Green Park and the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We know there is no shortage of qualified candidates to fill these roles if companies are willing to look. Yet the snowy peaks of British business remain stubbornly white.”
Phillips said the lack of black leaders at Britain’s biggest businesses made talented black employees think they would not be able to advance there in their careers, looking instead to smaller companies, or the US.
Phillips called on shareholders, consumers and employees to “start questioning whether black lives matter is just rhetoric rather than reality. Corporate leaders need to stop telling us how much they care and do something to show us that black lives really do matter.”
Green Park is calling for organisations to act to tackle issues surrounding race inequality, for a fairer society and to ensure the success of British business after Brexit.