Diversity Benchmark brings clarity to disparities

Thomas Colquhoun-Alberts, Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark and Knowledge Manager examines the disparities between the employment rate of BAME and White people and encourages participation in the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark as a key consideration in developing a strategic approach to tackling these inequalities. 


In February the Ruby McGregor-Smith review was published. The review highlighted that BAME workers in the UK face structural, historical bias and that it affects every stage of their working life, even before it begins.

The disparities between ethnic minorities and white workers in their access to work and experiences of UK workplaces are alarming by any measure. Two that stand out for me are the employment rate (62.8% for BAME people compared with 75.6% for white people) and the underemployment rate (15.3% for BAME workers compared with 11.5% for white workers).

Consider findings from the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark.

We ask about the percentage of job applicants and hires from BAME and white backgrounds. By calculating the ratio of hires to applicants for different groups, we can measure disparities. For example, if over a year 30% of all applicants are from a BAME background, we would expect that 30% of all hires should be from a BAME background too – a ratio of 1. However, if only 15% of hires are BAME, then the ratio is 0.5. If 40% of hires are BAME, then the ratio is 1.3.

A ratio less than 1 means applicants from that group are being hired at a lower rate than they are applying. It flags that there may be bias in the recruitment process. Similarly, a ratio greater than 1 suggests bias in favour applicants from that group.

The Diversity Benchmark brings the disparities into sharp relief. The breakdown is shown the chart below.

Diversity Benchmark graph

The conversion ratio for BAME candidates is just 0.45 while for white candidates it is 1.05. The means that just 1 in 2 BAME job applicants are successful, whereas white applicants are being hired in roughly similar proportions to their applications. This pattern varies for different roles and levels of seniority, but the pattern of opportunity and exclusion is the same.

It is even more pronounced when we add a gender lens. The average conversion ratio for BAME men is just 0.4 and for BAME women is it 0.59. The ratio for white men is closest to 1 at 1.08, and for white women it is 1.48. Again, the pattern is repeated for all levels of seniority. Among graduates, white women have the highest conversion ratio (1.78), BAME men the lowest (0.58); BAME women are also selected out (0.67).


Diversity Benchmark graph #2

BAME candidates are not being hired in proportions similar to their applications. They are not progressing through the stages of recruitment. BAME applications are being selected out. Conversely, white applicants are being hired in disproportionately larger numbers, compared with the number of applications from white candidates.

These findings underscore that the challenges are structural. We don’t know how many candidates these figures represent, but we do know that these are large employers, averaging nearly 23,000 workers each and collectively employing over 1 million workers in the UK.

This extent of discrimination and inequality is socially iniquitous and economically disastrous. BEIS estimates that full representation of BAME individuals across the labour market would benefit the economy by £24 billion a year or 1.3% of GDP

There are things we can do.

The Ruby McGregor-Smith Review  outlines a roadmap to success. The first step is gathering data to understand strengths and weaknesses. Data will help your organisation make the right policy choices. For example, 74% of Race Diversity Benchmark participants provide unconscious bias training to staff at the beginning of a recruitment process and 28% remove the names and ages of applicants from documents provided to application assessors. 22% Ban the Box

The roadmap to success identifies several critical steps, starting with monitoring key data points and analysing these for disparities. The Diversity Benchmark helps you identify which are the most important measures of diversity and inclusion, and shows how your organisation compares against peers and competitors. Benchmarking is also a means of gaining senior buy-in by providing analysis and insights that affect organisational success or failure. Benchmark data provides evidence that supports strategic decision-making and resource allocations. Sharing benchmark insights also promotes employee engagement. Share success, acknowledge challenges, start the conversation. 

As Baroness McGregor-Smith emphasises, no company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can be taken seriously until it collects, scrutinises and is transparent with its workforce data.


Interested in benchmarking your organisation’s diversity?
Find out how your organisiation can take part in the Business in the Community Diversity Benchmark >> 

Thomas Colquhoun-Alberts.