The Colour of Power 2021When Operation Black Vote launched The Colour of Power back in 2017, we hoped that the stark visualisation of what power looked like both in racial and in gender terms would begin an inexorable conversation and that would lead to inevitable positive change. In truth the stark realisation wasn't enough. Our then media partners The Guardian - gave the project unprecedented coverage - some 10 pages and three podcasts of coverage, but by 2020, three years later our data shows little had changed.
However, in the past 12 -18 months the dial is beginning to move more quickly than ever before. So, today a snapshot now compared to four years ago shows a doubling of the number of British Black, Asian, and minority ethnic faces in very high places. In 2017 we were at 36, today it's 73, double.
The greatest shift has been in politics, which has seen significant and positive changes from both Labour and the Conservatives, with the Prime Minister appointing a record number of BAME Cabinet members (6) and Ministers (7) to his Government. Whilst the Labour boasts a record number of BAME Mayors (4) and Council leaders (11) all of which is particularly pleasing for us at Operation Black Vote as we celebrate our 25th anniversary this month.
Other small but significant changes can be seen in areas such as Vice Chancellors (6) NHS trusts (3) Consultancy firms (3) and FTSE 100 firms (6) and Trade Unions (2)
In terms of which ethnic groups have seen the biggest increase it has be Asian men. But overall BAME women have jumped from a low base of (7) to a record number of (18)
Women in general have moved up, but again not as far as one would expect in a four year period, from 23% to 27%.
So what can we understand from this unique data set that gives us a snap shot of what power looks like in the UK?
Overall it tells us that progress is too often very slow. And one could argue that without some of the biggest and longest protest about race inequality- BLM- progress would have been even slower.
The data also tells us that some areas are just stuck with no change or if it is its glacial such as Permanent Secretaries, Public Body Chiefs, CEOs of Business organisations, Members of the Defence Council, Heads of the Intelligence Agency, Chief Constables, and TV execs all (0)
When we look at the data and when the change began in earnest we can clearly see a correlation between how slow change began from 2017 to 2020 from 36 to around 50, and then in the last year or so the numbers jumped from 50 to 73. This represents a movement of 5 per year for the first three years then a jump of 23 in the last year.
Once suspects that the unprecedented Black Lives Matter protest that was in fact the longest and largest race equality protests ever seen in the UK dramatically focused people's attention to the barriers or pathways to the top jobs. There is no question of doubt that society as whole but specifically in business, academia , political and civic arenas our nation begun some of the most profound conversations about who we are, what we look like at all levels and above how we might implement change.
Some of the conversations that were had, and I attended many were at times difficult, uncomfortable, as BAME staff were empowered to lay bare their lived experience to bosses, who were frankly shocked at the level and depth of inequalities they were blind right on their door step. This data shows that with that social political backdrop people have looked around and with more open eyes have seen a deluge of talent that was too often overlooked.
And whilst this is but a snap of what is going my own anecdotal evidence having conversed throughout the spectrum of the COP categories, change below this very senior level is also afoot.
The million dollar question is; can we keep this momentum going? That answer is not clear cut and for a number of reasons. First we have Government, or at least aspects of Government who are not only in denial of the challenge to tackle systemic racism, but at times pitting those- Footballers taking the knee, and the Black Lives Matter movement, as distinct from its more political offshoot, to be seen as enemies of the white working class. Crudely characterised as 'Culture Wars', which is ironic because it has nothing to do with culture. But worse still some Black and Asian politicians are willing to put themselves on the front line of faux culture wars.
But if those in Government abandon the phoney that only divides communities and breeds racial hatred and engages in the meaningful conversation about how are institutions built in the past are still delivering great inequalities in present then we can begin to reform or rebuild in a way that gives us a realistic opportunity to unleash a deluge of talent and ensure we have sustainable pipes of talent for generations to come.
The Colour of Power uniquely gives our society a frame work for that discussion and potential change. As architects of this design we are very much aware that whist OBV has a particular interest in race quality, this format gives us the potential to slice and dice the data for other sectors including gender, class, disability, LBGTQ+, geography and much more.
But as we said back in 2017 and we say it even louder today, our biggest challenge will be denial of the problem. Having this profound conversations about where we are, what are the barriers formulating a plan to close inequality gaps will have a profound impact on our society.
When diversity flourishes particularly at the top, but also throughout decisions to solve some of our societal challenges, unemployment, poor health, generating wealth equitably are better served.
We at OBV hope that The Colour of Power 2021 helps keep this renewed positive momentum for change on the right track. If we're getting the top right it's more likely we are changing the organisations culture, and with that transformation throughout.
The North Star for this change is to unleash talent, and build a fairer society
Simon Woolley and Rita Patel
Why did we embark on this project?
In 2016, after the furore of the #Oscarsowhite, the New York Times published a special edition that would be in effect a snap shot of what US power looked like in a feature entitled 'Faces of American Power'.
What the 'Faces of American Power' feature did was to graphically illustrate the lack of diversity within the power people of America: the movers and shakers who shape arguably the most powerful nation on the planet.
Inspired by the New York Times piece we at OBV wondered what a similar exercise, perhaps one that was more thorough, might look like here in the UK.
We then thought about potential media partners who we hoped would be supportive, challenging and excited about instigating a ground breaking conversation not just about 'The Colour of Power', but also about the gender of power too. The Guardian has been all of this and more.
After working on this project for several months we had no idea that the BBC presenters' salary bombshell would be dropped just weeks before this publication. But it couldn't have surfaced at a better time. The BBC pay gap findings highlighted another uncomfortable truth, in particular how women and BME individuals can be doing a similar job to their white male colleagues but be financially and professionally devalued. Interestingly the Guardian was one of the few publications to focus on the race disparity in the BBC findings, highlighting the fact that the highest paid BBC presenter, Chris Evans, was paid an annual fee close to that of all of the 11 BME presenters in the top 96 put together.
But whilst the BBC presenters might wield some influence, none of them made our list because we chose to highlight individuals who are, essentially, in charge.
Equally, the very recent David Lammy review which uncovered deep racial bias within the criminal justice system becomes part of this broader debate about an unrepresentative system producing negatively biased outcomes. And before the Lammy review the Conservative Baroness and business leader Ruby McGregor Smith unveiled her report; 'Race in the workplace', which made very clear that in the business world, 'Racial barriers exist, from entry through to board level, that prevent these individuals from reaching their full potential.' McGregor goes on to argue that this race penalty cost the nation 24 billion pounds a year.
So what does 'The Colour of Power' say about who wields power and, even more profoundly, about how that power dynamic drives the cultural, political and financial engine rooms of the United Kingdom? We do not pretend to have the answers to many of the questions that are raised by shining this spotlight on power in the UK, but we do hope that as a nation we are collectively bold enough to begin a debate by asking questions such as: what are the consequences, if any, of having such a gross lack of diversity at the top level within a spectrum of sectors in the UK? What has changed in the past 10 years? Is change too slow? Does this snap shot of the UK's top decision makers have consequences further down the power hierarchy? Are BME individuals, and women, consciously or unconsciously locked out of powerful roles? How much of an issue is gender or racial lack of self belief? What are the cultural dynamics within different communities that can play either a positive or negative role in high achieving? If we were to fast forward 10 years what would this situation look like? And what would it mean for society?
These are but a few of the questions that will help us understand the challenge and be best place to effectively respond
For OBV the goal is clear. First, let's not get stuck in cul-de-sac of denial. We should be brave enough to acknowledge the lack of diversity at the higher end of decision making institutions, and then set out plans for how we might fantastically unleash the potential talent that resides in every street in every city in every region of the UK. Unlocking more talent does not mean there are fewer spoils to share amongst us. This is not a zero sum game. The more talent, the more creativity we can produce simply means the more the spoils get bigger and better.
Business becomes better; politics becomes more inclusive and more effective; science, medicine and other very technical industries become more inventive. The net results should see the whole of society as the true winners. Who would complain about a more prosperous society, one in which talent and success flourishes within every community right across the UK?
Equally, we could also argue that one of the greatest dividends of addressing the fundamentals around 'The Colour of Power' would be gains in our society's well being.
Greater equality of opportunity would help translate to less resentment of 'others' who are often blamed by those feeling frozen out of jobs, particularly secure jobs, and the dignity that comes with employment.
Imagine the type of society we would have if millions more had a greater sense of belonging, because the nation's institutional infrastructure viewed them as a rich source of talent.
Could this document help spark a conversation that truly becomes a transformative debate?
We think so.
Simon Woolley Director - Rita Patel Chair
I would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to the following for making The Colour of Power 2021 happen, and in such a brilliant way.
First, the OBV team led by the very able Ashok Viswanathan who were able to painstakingly plot the new story from the 2017 right up to the present day.
The brilliant web design of Cayelan Mendoza who built us a new website from scratch with such skill and patience. Cayelan has to be the go to person in this arena of web development. A special mention also for Joseph Williams who facilitated this contact, and has advised us throughout this project.
To our long term media partners Saatchi & Saatchi*, who at a moments notice offered to design the front page that we hope will draw you in.
Our new PR partners Hanover*, who for the past six have been guiding, advising and helping to design both in this and other OBV projects
Our lawyers, Herbet Smith Freehils LLP, led by the brilliant Kate Macmillan who have supported us on this project, and in general with the perfect balance of steeliness when needed, but also with an acute antennae that the rights of this project are protected for years to come.
And finally to the OBV board, most of whom have been with me on this incredible The Colour of Power journey as well as the last 25 years. Thank you to them, thank you to all.
- Ella Frederick
- Mayowa Ayodele
- Merlene Carrington
- Rafiq Maricar
- Sandra Stewart
- Olivia Robinson
- Jennifer Ramirez
- Jordan Maharjan
- Meesha Cru-Hall
- Rita Patel
- David Weaver
- Audrey Adams
- Meena Dhobi
Herbet Smith Freehils LLP
- Kate Macmillan
- Katie Pryor
- Emma Sherratt
- Elina Kyselchuk
SAATCHI & SAATCHI
- Magnus Djaba
- Adrien Ash
- Kerry Roper
- Zoe Fillingham
- Tanisha Aggarwal
- Adnan Chowdhury
Key elements for any new research must be to try to both engage and inform the reader of a knowledge gap that should be challenged and, in this case, bridged.
We chose to graphically illustrate the lack of diversity at the top level throughout a broad spectrum of private and public institutions by using a series of lists and photos. We hope that the visual impact will speak volumes and encourage us towards a much needed conversation, and hopefully action for positive change.
When we embarked upon this project we really had no idea what the overall number of powerful individuals would be (1160) and to what extent the disparities, if at all, would show. We simply knew that the exercise would have to be both thorough and undertaken without any preconceived ideas.
Of the 1,160 individuals in positions of power in the UK just 36 are BME, or 3.4% of the total. To put this in context, at the time of the last census in 2011, 12.9% of the population of the UK was from a BME background. Women from BME backgrounds are even less likely to be represented, with just seven BME women on the list - less than 1% of the total.
The research also shows that the majority of those in positions of power are men. Women account for less than a quarter of the names on our list (23.6%)
Choosing the appropriate private and public posts from a broad spectrum of sectors became a challenge in itself. For us it was a journey that lasted months, and we underwent much to-ing and fro-ing, first internally and then with our partners. The first question we asked ourselves was: 'What are the institutions that most affect our lives?' Some are more obvious than others, including national government, the banking industry and our universities, but choosing other sectors thrust us into interesting debates. Why, for example did we choose local elected leaders, and a plethora of CEOs right across the public sector? Why, for example, choose football managers and not owners?
In the main, selecting the various sectors came down to ensuring the legitimacy of the project. We wanted a broad spectrum of sectors that could play a significant role within our society, but equally we very much wanted to say that any one of these 1,000 plus posts should in theory be open to any one of our children here in the UK. Owning a Premiership football club is not the same as managing one. The first often requires a billion dollar personal bank account, while the second simply demands great football insight, tactical nous and brilliant man management.
The other challenge that presented itself was how to compile the lists. Some were much easier to put together than others. For example, the numbers of elected mayors in the UK are finite and definite. Collating a list of top consultancy firms is an altogether different proposition. Here we often relied on trade body magazines or websites, but only those who used a compelling matrix to find their top group. For example the source for the UK's top consultancies - Management Consulted - told us that their list was put together using a matrix that includes: Â 'office size, recruiting priority, areas of focus, and third party rankings.'
The project was an exhaustive affair that by its very nature could never be perfect, but one to which we sought to bring as much rigour and legitimacy as possible.
We were acutely aware that the individuals in these posts are not static. Â For example, we started this project before the 2019 general election and had compiled a list of cabinet members and senior minsters, but once aÂ snap election had been called we knew we would have to begin all over again once the newly elected government was in place. In the end our arbitrary cut-off date was 16th July 2017. We are aware, therefore, that by the date of publication some of the individuals may have changed.
Chosen categories:politics and the civil service (UK cabinet, Scottish and Welsh devolved administration ministers, and the mayors, party leaders and CEOs of selected English councils)
business and professional services (including FTSE 100 CEOs and the heads of the largest law, accountancy, advertising, consulting and publishing firms)
policing, defence and judiciary
media (editors of the biggest newspaper and lifestyle magazines, and heads of the TV broadcasters)
education (vice-chancellors of the 50 top universities)
sport (premier league managers and heads of the sporting bodies)
health (CEOs and chairs of the 50 largest NHS trusts by attendance)
How was it sourced?
The full list is as follows (where links are not available, source information is provided in brackets):
arts/culture bodies directors/CEOs (Arts Council of England portfolio organisations funding and Department for Culture, Media and Sport final provision funding for 2016/17)
Cabinet members and those who attend cabinet meetings
CEOs/managing partners of Top 20 law firms
CEOs of FTSE 100 companies
CEOs of the busiest 50 NHS trusts (top 50 NHS England trusts by the highest number of finished admission episodes in 2015-16 as provided by NHS Digital)
Chairs of the busiest 50 NHS trusts (top 50 NHS England trusts by finished admission episodes in 2015-16 as provided by NHS Digital)
CEOs of public bodies (bodies which receive most government funding plus other selected public bodies: Arts Council England, Big Lottery, British Council, British Film Institute, Care Quality Commission, Independent Police Complaints Commission, Office of Rail and Road, Ofgem, Ofsted, Sport England and UK Sport)
CEOs of the top 20 accounting firms as listed by AccountancyAge's Top 50+50 Firms 2016 Â
CEOs of the top 20 advertising agencies as ranked by Nielsen and published by Campaign
CEOs of the top 10 consulting firms as listed by Management Consulted
CEOs of the 10 top fundraising charities as listed by Charity Financials
Members of Defence Council for the Armed forces
Heads of the intelligence agencies (individual websites)
Editors of Top 10 UK women's fashion & lifestyle magazines as measured by ABC circulation
London borough council CEOs
London borough council Leaders
Managers of Premier League
Managing directors of TV broadcasters
Directly elected mayors
Managing directors of media agencies
Metropolitan borough council CEOs
Metropolitan borough council leaders
Newspaper editors of the top 20 national newspapers by print circulation as measured by ABC Â
Permanent secretaries in the Civil Service Board (CSB)
Police and crime commissioners
Leaders of political parties represented in parliament
CEOs of top publishing firms as measured by Neilsen
Scottish parliament ministers
CEOs of national governing bodies of sport according to the 15 sports with the largest participation (excluding exercise, movement and dance)
Supreme court judges
CEOs of top UK banks, regulatory bodies and representative groups (UK banks stress tested in 2016, the Bank of England and regulatory bodies)
CEOs/leaders of trade unions which have 10,000-plus members
Unitary authority council CEOs
Unitary authority council leaders
Vice-chancellors of top 50 universities
Welsh Assembly cabinet members
Wait, aren't there some people on this list who hold more than one position?
Yes. For example some companies like ITV appear in both the FTSE 100 category and the television broadcasters category. There are 1,160 individual entries on the long list. However, when duplicates are removed (those who hold more than one position or are represented in two different categories) there is a total of 1,050 individuals listed.
Anomalies Because of the way we have set the frame work for The Colour of Power it means that in reality some people who might be on the list are not so we've made a list of those who ordinarily would be on this list
They include: Tome Ilube first Black Chair of the Rugby Union
Baroness Amos, Master of University college Oxford and Sonita Alleyne Jesus College Cambridge who both made history as first Black heads of Oxbridge colleges
Simon Woolley Principal of Homerton College, first Black male to head an Oxbridge college.
Vic Motune, Editor of The Voice
Ahmed Versi, Editor of The Muslim News
Ramniklal Solanki MBE, Editor of Eastern Eye
We're sure there are more and would be happy to add them to this list