Black and Asian Britons ‘scarcely represented at top of Civil Service’

Study shows less diversity in Whitehall than FTSE 100

The leadership of the Civil Service is far less ethnically diverse than senior positions within FTSE 100 companies, a damming report reveals today, with Black and Asian Britons “virtually unrepresented” at the top of Whitehall.

The study, written by the former head of the equalities watchdog Trevor Phillips, found ethnic minorities are under-represented in senior Civil Service roles, relative to the working population at large, by a factor of more than three to one.

Ethnic minorities currently make up just 3.7 per cent of the top level of the Civil Service, compared to 8.3 per cent of senior business roles in FTSE 100 companies. Across the population in general, ethnic minorities make up 12.8 per cent of working-age adults.

The report also found that ethnic diversity in local authority leadership is so low that it “almost defies analysis”. It says there is just one non-white local authority CEO in London and none amongst eight “core cities” outside London.

The report comes ahead of a separate piece of work, commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, to look at the barriers to improving ethnic representation at the top of Whitehall which is due to be published ahead of the next election.

A recent report on gender diversity found significant under-representation of women at the top of Whitehall and led to a new strategy to improve the situation. 

Mr Phillips’ report for Green Park Diversity Analytics looked at the top 20 positions in UK government departments by ethno-cultural background. It found there were virtually no employees of Black, Chinese or other Asian origin in the top four grades within the Civil Service.

Of the 268 people in leadership roles in the most prominent public bodies outside government and local authorities – such as the Bank of England, NHS England and the BBC – just six were non-white.

Mr Phillips said: “The top levels of the public sector are even more ‘vanilla’ than the senior levels of the UK’s top private-sector companies.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We need the best and brightest civil servants, regardless of their background. The Civil Service compares favourably to many organisations in terms of the diversity of its workforce – but we must do better.”