Black employees have more ambition than their colleagues – but are still held back at work

  • 74% of black employees want to progress in their careers compared to only 42% of white employees.  
  • 33% of black employees feel their ethnicity will be a barrier to their next career move, compared to only 1% of white employees.
  • Lack of consistent data is crippling change: the government must introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting.

Business in the Community – The Prince’s Responsible Business Network with more than 750 companies in membership – has published Race at Work: The Black Voices Report, featuring new analysis on the largest survey on race ever carried out. These never-before-seen figures are a stark demonstration of how far we must go to reach equality in our places of work and a reminder of how little companies know about the divide in their own workplace. We urgently need better, more comprehensive data about race inequality. To solve the problem, we must all understand it. 

We are calling on the government to make it mandatory for all companies with more than 250 employees to report on their ethnicity pay gap – as it promised to do in 2018. Without a requirement to report on a consistent measure across sectors, companies do not understand the scale of the issue: our research shows that only 11% of companies are capturing their ethnicity pay gap data and only half of those are reporting on their pay gap voluntarily.  

Although as reporting on pay gaps is not perfect – as we know from current work on gender – it has focused attention and business investment like never before and made it a boardroom issue.  

Recommended by Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review, mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting measure would give companies the ability to address inequality in a consistent, meaningful way.  

Race at Work: The Black Voices Report sets out five actions that employers can take to support their black employees: 

  1. Senior leaders should actively sponsor black talent in their workplaces.
  2. Employers must convene big conversations in the workplace, with active listening – and then make plans on agreed actions together with their black employees.
  3. Sponsor, support and encourage their employees to participate in the Race at Work 2021 survey. 
  4. Set targets to increase the representation of black people at senior levels within their organisations. 
  5. Demonstrate a commitment to diverse supply chains as well as asking suppliers how they are doing the same; employers should ask their suppliers to demonstrate how they are including black enterprise and service providers within their supply chains. 
  6. Sign the Race at Work Charter.

Sandra Kerr CBE, race director at Business in the Community, said:  

“In a year which has seen the normal rules of business and government thrown out of the window and shown so clearly the full impact of race discrimination on black people’s lives and livelihoods, it is inconceivable that the government will not meet its 2018 promise.  

This issue goes beyond politics. COVID-19 has shown me that, when they work in partnership, the government and the private sector can achieve great things. Together, they can invest in ethnicity pay gap reporting and take a step towards a more equal society.” 

Marsha de Cordova MP, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, said: 

“This report sets out clearly just why ethnicity pay gap reporting is so important. It’s not about data collection for the sake of it, but data collection that will show businesses where they need to change and what steps they must take to ensure black members of staff can really develop, progress their careers and achieve their ambition. 

Introducing mandatory reporting can only be a good thing and the Government’s refusal to do so holds back our talented workforce. I welcome the further evidence that this report brings.”

Richard Iferenta, partner at KPMG and Chair of Business in the Community’s Race Leadership Team, said: 

“The Black Voices Report is a welcome and timely report further shining the spotlight on the challenges faced by black employees in the business world. I am delighted with the specific actions recommended in the report to guide businesses in driving transformational change with a sense of urgency. Recruitment practices and development opportunities for black talent clearly need to evolve rapidly to level the playing field.” 


Media Contact: 

Cathy Beveridge, Media and External Affairs Manager, Business in the Community  

Email:, 07776181945 

About Business in the Community  

Business in the Community is the oldest and largest business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business. We were created nearly 40 years ago by HRH The Prince of Wales to champion responsible business.   

We inspire, engage and challenge members and we mobilise that collective strength as a force for good in society to:   

  • develop a skilled and inclusive workforce for today and tomorrow
  • build thriving communities where people want to live and work 
  • innovate to sustain and repair our planet.