BUSINESS leaders have welcomed new figures showing that British Indians are outperforming other minority groups to land top jobs, but have warned more work is needed on equality.
Eleven per cent of professionals of Indian heritage were in “manager, director and senior official” roles, the joint highest percentage, along with those who are white.
That figure dropped to eight per cent for staff of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, and five per cent among black people, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed.
In the “professional” category, people of Indian descent made up the largest number with 33 per cent, compared to one in five for white Britons and 18 per cent among those of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage in 2018.
Leading British Indian entrepreneurs have praised the trailblazers who have secured senior roles, but cautioned that many challenges remain for ethnic minorities in the workplace.
Atul Bhakta, CEO of global logistics firm One World Express, told Eastern Eye: “The statistics underline just how important people of Indian origin are in the UK’s private sector.
“Indeed, this is something that is often taken for granted. For me, it has been positive to see diversity become a watchword within British business, with more attention paid to the make-up of management teams in particular.
“I believe we must celebrate the fact that one in 10 Indian workers holds senior positions within their organisation.
“However, these statistics can easily mask the everyday challenges that ethnic minorities still face in the UK.
“Whether it’s securing a promotion or integrating oneself within a team, there remain many obstacles for Indians in the workplace. The more we can talk about such issues and ensure processes are in place to stamp out intolerance, the more progress we can make in achieving greater equality.”
His comments come after calls for companies to be forced to publish any difference in pay between ethnic groups following the Black Lives Matter protests in the UK.
Current laws require businesses to release only their gender pay gap. This could be extended to cover ethnicity after a wide-ranging review ordered by Downing Street.
Paresh Raja, CEO of Market Financial Solutions, said the figures on senior positions come at an important time following the anti-racism protests.
He told Eastern Eye: “Recent protests have sparked wider conversations about the issue of racial inequality in the UK.
“As part of this, we must recognise the progress that is being made and how much further we still need to go.
“The fact that one in 10 senior business personnel are of Indian origin should not be downplayed. By being in visible positions of leadership, I believe this will only inspire our next generation of workers to aspire to senior management roles.”
Elsewhere, separate figures showed one in five workers of Indian origin are in the banking or finance industry, the highest percentage out of all the individual groups, compared to 17 per cent of white Britons and 14.6 per cent among British Pakistanis or Bangladeshis.
Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers had the highest proportion of workers in the distribution, hotels and restaurants sector compared to any other ethnic group, accounting for 30.7 per cent of staff.
Raja added: “In my own experience, the banking and finance industries have been particularly focused on creating more inclusive environments.
“It is something we place significant emphasis on here at Market Financial Solutions.
“I hope these trends continue, with the ultimate goal being the creation of a diverse and equal opportunity workforce for people of all ethnicities and backgrounds.”
Ritam Gandhi, director of digital firm Studio Graphene, said it was a positive thing to see the growing representation of Indian origin workers within management teams.
He said: “While it has been an uphill battle to improve diversity standards within businesses, these figures suggest that the tides are beginning to turn.
“[But] it will take more than steadily increasing the representation of ethnic minorities at senior levels. Business leaders must engage fully with this challenge and ensure inclusivity is a priority. This involves introducing diversity initiatives and effectively communicating policies that aim to create more inclusive environments and cultures.
“It also involves actively supporting less represented groups at every step in their journey through the company.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a new cross-government commission on race inequality earlier this month, one that will examine areas including employment, education and health.
The inquiry, to be overseen by equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, will make recommendations for the government by the end of the year. It will be headed by an independent officer and include people from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds.
David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We are very supportive of the need for a joined-up strategy in relation to dealing with entrenched issues for BAME individuals in this country. Addressing issues in the workplace is one of the key areas where a huge amount of work has been done, but where we need particular action.”