The Middle: Progressing Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Talent in the Workplace through Collaborative Action


Report Launch: Bloomberg, 19th September 2017.  The BBBA research team on stage with Rob Friend, Bloomberg, and David Tyler, Sainsbury’s.

By Fatima Tresh

Group Lab member and PhD student Fatima Tresh works for the Black British Business Awards as a research assistant and has played a key part in producing a new report dedicated to supporting talented ethnic minorities in business.

The Research Team

The report was commissioned by co-founders of the Black British Business Awards Sophie Chandauka and Melanie Eusebe to highlight and addresses the barriers that inhibit the recognition and development of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) middle managers’ potential.  The research lead for the report, Dr Doyin Atewologun, is a lecturer in the School of Business and Management at Queen Mary University of London.  Doyin and Fatima share research interests in leadership, diversity and identity and have provided complementary academic perspectives towards the research and research report.  The research benefitted from a team of academics and practitioners, for maximum impact and practical relevance to industry.  Diane Greenidge, founder and chair of the Network of Networks and Sheekha Rajani, independent diversity and inclusion consultant and senior manager for D&I at PwC, supported the research and report writing process providing advice on how to make the report accessible and user friendly to maximise its use in organisations.

The Research & Report

It was important that this research did not produce another report that was simply acknowledged, read and shelved with delayed intention to act.  For the BBBAs, this research needed to go a step further, it needed to speak to the individuals in business who can turn the dial and make real change in real time.  It also needed to engage the ecosystem, with so many positive contributions, efforts and initiatives, it was imperative that this action research would stimulate a collaborative and cohesive effort towards acknowledging, celebrating and progressing BAME talent on a national level.  As a result, the data collection process was designed to target and reach the key groups of stakeholders in the BAME agenda, from the leaders of the BAME and multicultural networks, heads of Human Resources, diversity and inclusion practitioners and executive sponsors of the networks.  Each stakeholder group plays a key role in moving the agenda forward, and delving into their perceptions and attitudes around ethnic minority talent was key to identifying the issues and how to resolve them.

Participants from 30 significant corporate companies and regulators operating in the UK engaged their employees in our research.  The research team designed a tailored survey for each of the stakeholder groups based on their specific positioning within their organisation.  A focus group with each stakeholder group was run post-survey and cue cards followed the focus group.  The survey set out to collect demographic information and understand the practices, attitudes and positions of the organisations represented in the research in relation to the BAME agenda.  The focus groups were conducted to allow for frank, open and engaged conversations from the specific perspective of each stakeholder role.  In these focus groups, participants discussed the reasons why progress has not been faster, what they see as their role in progressing the agenda and their views of the other stakeholders.  Cue cards allowed for participants to disclose further thoughts anonymously.

One of the most powerful findings was the degree to which these stakeholders, albeit having the same aspirations, were largely disconnected.  While network leads were frustrated that data was not shared with them, D&I practitioners do not want to share data that will not show their organisation in a positive light.  Executive sponsors support setting targets to drive change while HR directors are reluctant to set targets without first changing attitudes.  It was evident that the lack of cohesion, and to some extent conflict, between these influential groups was contributing to the slow progress in advancing BAME talent.

The report highlights the disconnect, but also the harmony, between stakeholder groups in driving the BAME agenda forward.  It provides an insight into the lived experiences of BAME employees and those with the right intentions but are hindered by their lack of control.  What the report does is systematically dissect the issues to report why greater progress has not been made, what the levers for change are and the key responsibilities of stakeholders in implementing these changes.  The report has been commended for being both practically relevant and academically impactful.

The Report Launch

The launch of the report, which was hosted by Bloomberg on 19th September 2017, had 250 delegates in attendance.  David Tyler, chairman of Sainsbury’s, gave a keynote at the event in which he highlighted Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity and the impact of the report in bringing to light the issues and the practical guidelines that it has provided.  Fatima was on the panel for the Q&A session, and members of the audience were invited to ask questions relating to the research.  The research team were asked how to implement the changes they recommended, what advice they would give to a young ethnic minority starting out in their career, why the research focuses on middle management specifically, and whether the emphasis on numbers and statistics was complicating the issues for ethnic minorities.  The session stimulated some interesting discussions that continued into the networking session.

What next?

Fatima, who is supervised by Professor Georgina Randsley de Moura, Dr Madeleine Wyatt and Dr Ana Leite, will continue to work with the Black British Business Awards whose values align with her PhD research exploring and challenging the barriers that prevent fulfilment of minority employees’ leadership potential.  Based on the findings and expertise from her PhD research and the BBBA’s ‘The Middle’ report, Fatima will continue with the BBBA’s research team to support businesses who want to make a positive change towards progressing diverse talent.

The report is available for download via the link:

To follow the conversation on the report launch, use the hashtag #themiddleresearch

To discuss the report or any of the research findings please email Fatima Tresh (

This entry was posted in Equality, Leadership, Prejudice, Research, Uncategorized, Workplace and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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