I worked in South Africa running cultural change, communication and industrial relations programmes for major employers. On my return, in 1985, I was surprised at how little equal opportunities had advanced, and the lack of specific targets for senior management positions, training and monitoring.
I recently ranked 18 major retail, financial and leisure companies on the priority they gave to their employees, the wider community and the environment. Some 72 per cent had equal opportunity policies, but only two, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Nat West, specified the present imbalance. The Royal Bank of Scotland says 17 per cent of middle and 9 per cent of senior managers are women, whilst Nat West states that 20 per cent of its managers are women, and 2.5 per cent from the ethnic minorities.
Only four companies had women executive directors, and none had an ethnic minority director. This does not make business sense, as the majority of their customers and employees are women, and many products are targeted at women and the ethnic minorities. Changing company culture, like changing the wider society, takes time and commitment, and leadership from the top. It needs role models in senior positions, and it makes business sense.