Who needs ethnicity facts and figures?

Sandra Kerr OBE, Business in the Community Race Equality Director applauds the government on the publication of the new website profiling ethnicity facts and figures but calls for employers of all sizes and stakeholders to collectively take action to progress true equality. 

Yesterday, (10th October 2017), the Government published its new Ethnicity Facts and Figures data website, which includes the Race Disparity Audit examining the opportunity gaps facing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the UK today. The website also features some ‘killer stats’ on these issues and four key themes: employment, education, housing and health.

I am absolutely delighted to see this website finally go live. It is a bold step for the Government, but being transparent ab

out the issues facing Britain’s BAME population will enable a better understanding of the challenges around race equality. Publishing this data means there is also a solid evidence base to build solutions from. I am also particularly pleased that local data is included alongside central government statistics, as this will help to tailor action in areas with high BAME populations.

Information and data are vital to see what is going well and what is not. By gaining access to this data, we can look for the stories which help us understand any disparities between BAME people in the UK and their White counterparts. Although this data may just seem like numbers and percentages, behind the statistics are real stories of discrimination, lack of access, opportunity and success.

However, although data can help to identify where we might focus our interventions first, just publishing it is not enough. Now we need all stakeholders, including employers of all sizes and stakeholders, to take action alongside the Government. This will help us to create a society which ensures fair and equal access to opportunities and better outcomes for those who face persistent barriers. Employers could do this by monitoring BAME candidates at each stage of recruitment and/or promotion processes to identify and remove barriers, and providing unconscious bias training for employees involved in hiring or appraisal decisions.

Our Race at Work survey found that people in the UK overwhelmingly said that their employer was not comfortable talking about race. I know that many people wish we could just be ‘colour blind’ and stop highlighting any differences. I always say I will be more than happy to join in the celebrations when we begin to see the unemployment gap between BAME and White jobseekers close; when graduates get jobs at the same speed post-graduation and at the same rates of pay for the same jobs and roles.  

But until then, I hope this audit website will be regularly updated with current data, enabling us to spotlight what is happening in the areas of employment, education, health and housing and take steps to tackle any disparities. I also hope that the government will ask all of the employers and organisations within their supply chains about what action they are taking on race within their own workplaces and local communities. This way policymakers, together with external stakeholders who represent the full diversity of the UK’s neighbourhoods and towns can design the innovative solutions required to close any performance gaps, creating the future we want with equal opportunities for everyone.