The BAME Pay Gap: Let's Talk About The Concrete Ceiling, An Op-Ed By Lucy Siers.
The recent pressures on companies to detail their gender pay gap which we at Fashion Roundtable highlighted in June, showcased a stark gap between the earnings of the largely male executive boards and those working within the hierarchical structures of many media and fashion businesses, with Conde Nast revealing a 36.9% pay gap, slightly higher than the Telegraph Media Group at 35%, LBC owner Global Radio at 34.5% and the Economist Group at 32.5%. The pay gap is clearly linked to career growth opportunities with only 8% of women as Executive Directors of the UK FTSE 350, a figure which has stagnated for the past 3 years according to The Pipeline Report. At current rates The Fawcett Society estimate that it will take 100 years to close the gender pay gap.
Our focus at Fashion Roundtable, from our events on Ethnic Representation in the Fashion Industry, including this Sunday at Wilderness Festival with our #areyourepresented panel for Sunday Papers Live and our survey as evidence for an upcoming White Paper, has widened to include the less publicised, but very necessary conversation about the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) pay gap. Is the sparse discussion about this issue reflective on the UK’s unwillingness to talk about race? The gender pay gap reports have signalled the very existence of BAME pay gaps. However, this is more than a traditional British awkwardness to talk about earnings. Are we in denial? Or does white society just refuse to appreciate how race is still discriminated against within the work place? Considering how long it has taken to properly address sex discrimination, we can expect the BAME pay gap to be an even harder issue for businesses, education to address and for attainment to equalise. To close this, we need to confront our biases and the colonial narrative in our education system, as highlighted by Oxford University student and the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. This is itself relevant when you consider that Oxford University: the feeder for so many of the top jobs across politics, business and the media, including 7 of the last 10 Prime Ministers, admitted only 1.9% black students and Oriel College Oxford, has admitted only one black student in the last 6 years. How can you reach your potential if are not even on the syllabus or in the room as you begin your academic career? We have to recognise this as an issue. Conversation leads to policy. What then, can we do to address this? It is time to dismantle bias, unlock talent and create mentoring schemes, such as the one led by Kenya Hunt at ELLE UK, which support talent from less advantaged communities.
A 2018 report depicted how London’s perceived image of diversity may be far more unequal than it is intended to appear. The report detailed how BAME public sector workers could be paid up to 37.5% less than their white colleagues. The Greater London Authority (GLA) found that BAME members of the Metropolitan Police could earn up to 16% less, with Transport for London having an ethnic pay gap of 9.8%. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that these figures were “deeply troubling” with Dr. Omar Khan, leader of the race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust, commenting on the “shocking” nature of these results, considering that over one third of London is non-white. Dr. Omar Khan said: “We may now see the private sector overtaking the public sector, who have become far too complacent about racial diversity. Two in five Londoners are BAMEs in their forties, which should be their peak earning potential, yet how many London organisations have two in five BAME senior, or even middle, managers? Many private sector companies and consultancy firms set targets for change. It’s time for public bodies to catch up. Lack of action in the past means they need to be more radical, and that should involve more than graduate recruitment. It’s also about promoting BAME talent to top positions.”
This strive to generate equality in pay for BAME workers must also be replicated in the number of BAME candidates promoted to top positions within the workplace. The equal promotion of non-white candidates to senior positions may help to solve the wage-equality issue, with a more equal boardroom replicating more equal treatment within the business. Furthermore, the McGregor-Smith Review found that the British economy could have a £24bn a year boost if BAME people had the same opportunities as their white counterparts.
People from British minority backgrounds are beginning to close the gap in education, with the proportion of black men with Bachelor’s degrees increasing by 24% over the last 2 decades, but only a 15% increase for white men. However research shows that between 2007-2017, black male graduates earned on average £7,000 less than white male graduates. BAME women are the hardest hit when it comes to the issue of pay. Around 30% of White British women were paid below the Living Wage, compared with almost 40% of Bangladeshi women and just over a third of Pakistani women, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Last year it was made compulsory for businesses that employ over 250 people to report their gender pay gaps. A similar move to include BAME pay gaps could encourage this issue to start to be addressed and gradually improved.
The news producers, ITN, who produce news for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, voluntarily produced shocking figures of their own BAME pay gap. The median wage for a male BAME employee at ITN was 20.8% less than their white counterpart and a mean BAME bonus pay gap of 66%, with female BAME employees suffering an even greater disparity in pay when you combine the BAME stats with those of the gender pay gap of 19.6%. Despite ITN providing this information voluntarily, it must be questioned why gender pay issues are mandatorily required to be published, whereas the issue of race requires no such publication? Why are the two pay gaps treated differently. By following the ITN data it can be deduced that the BAME pay gap may be even worse nationwide. ITN have introduced their ‘Rooney Rule’ to attempt to reduce this attainment and earnings gap. One BAME candidate will be interviewed for every future position, aiming at a 50% reduction in its BAME pay gap by 2022.
Smashing what is termed the ‘Concrete Ceiling’, is crucial to changing the narrative: if you see someone who looks and sounds like you on the board, in the hierarchical structure of a company, in all likelihood you are more likely to realise a clearer pathway for career growth. This is not a side issue to the gender pay gap, it is a co-existing clear issue. The BAME pay gap, as well as the gender pay gap, is a standalone structural and deep-rooted problem and deserves independent debate and policy, to redress the structural biases, alongside the gender pay gap. As Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, herself a child immigrant to the UK said: “We should live in a country where every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, is able to fulfil their potential at work.”