New research into ethnically diverse CEOs in British business has revealed a stark contrast in the ethnic diversity of CEOs between the FTSE 100 and the FTSE AIM Index.
The study, released by DE&I consultancy INvolve alongside its annual Empower Role Model Lists, highlights the pressing need for major corporations to address the lack of diversity at the highest levels.
Around 15% of the 105 new entrants to the AIM Index since 2020 have ethnically diverse CEOs, compared to just 7% of the FTSE 100 and 6% of the AIM 100. The figures suggest that while there is a wealth of diverse talent and successful senior leaders in the UK, the numbers significantly diminish for top-tier companies. The disparity underscores the significant barriers diverse talent faces in reaching the highest positions within the UK’s largest organisations.
Driven into entrepreneurship
The data also demonstrates the potential power of diverse entrepreneurship in driving progress toward more diverse senior leadership. Notably, 50% of ethnically diverse CEOs among the new AIM entrants are also company founders. In contrast, among the AIM 100 companies with an ethnic minority CEO, only one is founder-led.
INvolve also released its annual Empower Role Model Lists, which sheds light on a potentially more diverse future for UK businesses and the persistent lack of representation in top positions within the largest organisations.
While the latest Parker Review found that nearly all FTSE 100 firms (96%) now have at least one ethnic minority director on their board, this representation does not extend to the uppermost echelons of these organisations.
Role modelling success
The Empower Role Model Lists, supported by YouTube, celebrate business leaders who actively dismantle barriers and promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. These global lists feature Role Models from 51 countries, showcasing different stories and experiences that strengthen the movement for intersectional diversity.
Suki Sandhu OBE, Founder and CEO of INvolve, encouraged new AIM entrants to show a greater likelihood of having an ethnically diverse CEO. As an Indian Sikh entrepreneur, Sandhu highlighted his pride in the number of new AIM entrant CEOs who are also company founders. He emphasised the importance of these leaders driving their companies forward and urged their positive representation to be sustained and improved as the organisations grow.
Representation is key
However, the figures from the FTSE 100 and AIM 100, which reveal a widespread lack of diverse senior representation, are deeply troubling. Sandhu emphasised the urgent need for businesses to remove barriers to progress and create a level playing field for all employees, regardless of their background. Talent development programs, in particular, were cited as instrumental in fostering the necessary skills and tools for success and paving the way for future leaders.
The Empower Role Model Lists showcase inspiring leaders who break barriers for people of colour, and they serve as essential role models for aspiring talent. The inclusion of ethnic minorities in senior leadership positions not only demonstrates what is possible but also gives companies a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent from diverse backgrounds.
Leading role models
The 2023 Empower Role Model Lists feature Titi Cole, CEO Legacy Franchises at Citi, who tops the Empower Executives list. Cole expressed her commitment to removing obstacles in the professional paths of diverse talent and highlighted the shared responsibility of driving equity across industries and uplifting the next generation of leaders.
Esther Akinwolemiwa, Institutional Sales at Wells Fargo, secured the top spot in the Empower 100 Future Leaders List. Akinwolemiwa expressed her dedication to positively impacting the communities she is part of and highlighted the joy of engaging in activities that give back.
Christophe Beck, Chairman & CEO at Ecolab, was named the leading Advocate for ethnically diverse individuals in the 2023 list. Beck acknowledged the recognition on behalf of the Ecolab team, emphasising their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which they consider essential for growth and success.
The research from INvolve sheds light on the pressing need for greater ethnic diversity among CEOs in major UK corporations. While the AIM Index shows a more promising trend, the figures from the FTSE 100 and AIM 100 highlight the significant work that still needs to be done to create a truly inclusive business landscape at the highest levels.