There is a worrying lack of visible business role models for the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community, according to new research from diversity-specialist  executive search company Audeliss.1

When asked to name business leaders from the BAME community in a timed environment, just 34% of BAME respondents could recall even one role model. In comparison, three quarters  (75%) of the Caucasian respondents could name at least one white business leader.2

In May 2016, a report by UPstanding – a ground-breaking initiative established by Audeliss to champion and support the BAME business community – found that only 3% of FTSE 100 CEOs were not white, despite individuals with a BAME background making up 14% of the UK population.3 The significant diversity deficit at the very top of Britain’s biggest businesses  is responsible for the lack of visible BAME role models across all roles and sectors including technology, law and finance.

Not only were fewer BAME respondents able to recall a business leader, but of those who  could a third (33%) chose leaders within the entertainment industry.

Female role models of ethnic minority background are further underrepresented:  a miniscule 12% of respondents cited any female BAME leaders with 75% of the named women  working in entertainment: Oprah and Beyoncé are the only two women in the top 10 most readily recalled business leaders. Conversely, there are no women in the non-BAME list named by white respondents, with globally-known business leaders Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Bill Gates winning the top three positions.

The business case for a visibly diverse organisation is well supported. Research reveals that 70% of the UK population are more likely to buy products from or use the services of a company that  they consider to be inclusive of all minorities and diverse in its approach to employment, and a mammoth  86% of the UK population believe that it is  important for people at the very top of organisations to promote messages of diversity and inclusion4 . Diversity also has a direct impact on business success: recent research from McKinsey evidences that diverse businesses outperform their competitors by up to 35%5.

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Manjit Wolsten holme, Non-Executive Director at Provident Financial plc and voted No.2 in the UPstanding Top 100 BAME Power List 2016, commented:  “This research reflects the urgent need for many more black, Asian and minority ethnic executives on boards if they are to reflect the diversity of our workforce and our customers. Only by continuing to profile, champion and provide a platform for BAME role models, will we create a pipeline of diverse talent within our companies and succeed in diversifying our most senior positions.”

Suki Sandhu, Founder and CEO of Audeliss agrees: “There is a worrying diversity deficit at the very top of global organisations and businesses are missing out on incredible talent. The BAME community is full of intelligent, creative and highly skilled individuals, but we need to show younger generations that they can succeed in business. Celebrating the achievements of diverse business leaders is a powerful tool in increasing the visibility of role models for younger people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and therefore helping to support the diverse leaders of tomorrow.”

The full findings of the report on BAME business role models are revealed in a new research white paper,  which is available to download for free today at

The most recalled BAME Business Leaders
1Lakshmi Mittal
2Oprah Winfrey
4James Caan
5Jay Z
6Aliko Dangote
7Ratan Tata
8Jack Ma
9Dr Dre
The most recalled non-BAME Business Leaders
1Richard Branson
2Alan  Sugar
3Bill Gates
4Phillip Green
5Mark Zuckerberg
6Steve Jobs
7Duncan Bannatyne
8Peter Jones
9James Dyson
10Rupert Murdoch

Supporting statistics:

The highlight on gender diversity in the c-suite and boardroom has been strident over recent years but for people of minority ethnic backgrounds, the glass ceiling is still all too real.

  • In the UK, 1 in 8 of the working population is from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background- only 1 in 10 are working.
  • In the UK, ethnic diversity in boardroom lags almost 2 decades behind gender diversity levels.
  • In the UK, only 1 in 16 top management positions are held by a person of ethnic minority.
  • In the UK, only 4% of CEOs are BAME.
  • In the UK, only 2% of British directors are from an ethnic background.
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