Let’s Talk About Race: ethnicity, targets and transparency - Business in the Community

Let’s Talk About Race: ethnicity, targets and transparency

Post author image. Sandra Kerr
Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community (BITC), on why it has never been more important to update our terminology and get comfortable talking about race.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Discrimination and Business in the Community is publishing the Regional Insights on Race factsheets and the Race at Work Charter Survey 2023 for employers.

With the 2021 Census data highlighting that 18.3% of people in England and Wales come from an ethnically diverse background, it has never been more important to get comfortable talking about race. I recently updated my Let’s Talk About Race guide, originally published in 2017, with new data and insight from the BITC Race at Work 2021 survey. There was a clear message in the government’s Inclusive Britain report 2021, that we need to move away from the terminology ‘BAME’, but what do we say instead? We asked more than 9000 people in 2021 what terminology they wanted to use, and we found that most people from Black African and Black Caribbean backgrounds prefer to be called Black. We found that most Asian people prefer to be called Asian, people from a mixed background, prefer Mixed Race or Mixed Heritage, and some prefer Other ethnic group. 

The 11 Regional Insights on Race Factsheets set out key demographic changes that have happened since the Census 2011 by regions in England and Wales*. We share insights into the most diverse locations within different UK regions and nations, including information on religion by location, languages spoken, and the demographic breakdown of students within universities and primary schools, and share fresh insights into regions from our Race at Work 2021 survey.

Employers can use these Regional Factsheets to support them to set targets to keep track of the attraction, recruitment, retention and progression of employees in their workplaces. This can enable them to ensure that they are drawing from the rich pool of talent now, and emerging in the future, within the UK. The McGregor-Smith Review: Race in the Workplace 2017 found that the potential boost of an additional £24 billion per annum into the UK economy could be gained by tackling the racial disparities in the labour market be they linked to recruitment, pay or progression.

It is time for employers to sign the Race at Work Charter, set transparent targets to increase representation and progression, capture ethnicity data and to voluntarily publish their ethnicity pay gaps. 

It is also time for the government, with another round of gender pay gap reporting due in April, to make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory for all employers, especially as the cost-of-living crisis begins to bite. We have produced an action plan for business to help employers navigate this, and with professors have produced some social economic papers by ethnicity group which will also help employers to understand the underlying challenges  their employees are grappling with. Take a look at the Regional Insight of Race Factsheet that relates to where you live and work in the UK, start the conversation about the changing national and local picture and agree on targets for your organisation.   

*The insight factsheet for Scotland will be published when the 2022 Scottish census results are available later in 2023.