Ethnic diversity on the boards of the UK’s biggest retailers edged up in 2019 as research found “people of colour remain super-glued to the corporate floor”.

The number of BAME directors and non-executive directors on FTSE 100 retail boards rose marginally to 5% in 2019, up from 3.1% the previous year – an increase of just 4.3% since 2014.

According to the annual Green Park Leadership 10,000 report, 47 of the FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic minority representation at board or executive director level.

There are just 10 chairs, chief executive and finance chiefs from a BAME background across the group overall, comprising just 3.3% of the total and showing no improvement in the six years since the recruitment consultancy began monitoring ethnic diversity at the top three leadership tiers of companies.

BAME representation in the leadership pipeline for FTSE 100 retailers also edged up just 0.4% year on year to 7.8%, which Green Park said raised “significant concerns about the prospects for any future improvement at board and executive committee level.”

Ethnic minority representation on boards is down 7.4% this year from 8.8% in 2018 and up only 2.2% since 2014, which translates to just seven new BAME appointments per year on average.

Trevor Phillips, chair of Green Park and founding chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Our latest analysis shows that after five years of monitoring, the promise that things would change over time for ethnic minority leaders at FTSE 100 retailers just as empty as the corporate pipeline. Women are cracking the glass ceiling, but people of colour remain super-glued to the corporate floor.”

Green Park chief executive Raj Tulsiani added: “The increasingly patchy progress in the retail sector may be a sign that some companies find it hard to focus on diversity in the true sense of the word, opting for concerted effort in the areas of gender or race but struggling to consistently address both. If British business is serious about presenting a modern face to the world it needs to properly invest in diversity and inclusivity leadership, and give those leaders the resources to match.”

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