Improving Ethnic Diversity & Inclusivity for People of Colour at Work

Ethnic Diversity at Work – What we’ll cover

  1. Fair Hiring & Recruitment Practices
  2. Progression, Pipeline & Positions of Influence
  3. Paying Fairly & Ethnicity Pay Gap Analysis

Why Diversity Delivers

There are countless studies and reports which list the benefits of having an ethnically diverse workplace, and years of evidence of best practice to work with.

The McGregor Smith report found that the potential benefit to the UK economy from full representation of BME individuals across the labour market, through improved participation and progression, is estimated at £24 billion a year, which represents 1.3% of GDP.

We’ve also seen the backlash of companies making hollow statements about Black Lives Matter and the collective responsibility to right wrongs. We don’t need statements – we need change. And the next generation is calling for change – a survey by Deloitte revealed that 69% of Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to stay for 5 or more years if working for employers perceived to have a diverse workforce.

So, as fair pay and workplace diversity experts, Gapsquare have created this page of tangible actions and next steps to build a fairer workplace for People of Colour.


1. Fair Hiring & Recruitment Practices

Workplace inequalities and lack of representation for People of Colour often start in recruitment, and it’s a good place to focus your efforts as change is quick to implement.

The traditional ways in which companies recruit, hire and interview are often layered with unconscious biases, which favour certain candidates over others.

Ensuring that hiring is fair will enable you to have a workforce which better represents society, and create a more inclusive environment for the People of Colour already within your organisation.

Improving BAME Representation & Tackling the Ethnicity Pay Gap – An Ebook

With increased demand for better representation at work, and pressure on the UK Government to implement mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, now is a real opportunity to create real lasting change.

Pay equality can’t wait any longer. This downloadable categorises and lists actions to take and improve representation and close ethnicity pay gaps in your company. We’ve included best practice examples from industry leaders, and the best next steps to take if you want to build fairness into your workplace.

Download the Resource

How can diversity of hiring be improved?

In a recent conversation with a client, we at Gapsquare learnt that before receiving a job offer, potential BME recruits and People of Colour are often unsure about sharing their ethnicity in equality forms because they are concerned that this will negatively impact their chance of gaining the role.

That this is a general consensus among applicants should worry us. Working to adapt a recruitment process that is inclusive is crucial. So how do you get started?

Recruiting Diverse Candidates

Here are some top tips we have picked up talking to clients, partners and employees themselves.

Lindy Elkins-Tanton writes in her article on avoiding bias hiring practices

How do you ensure diversity in recruitment?

Recognise bias before the interview
Train your hiring team to understand and recognise types of bias. Make sure your interviewers represent diverse groups themselves

Reach out, Expand your networks
Aim to reach out to different groups and networks in your advertising of a role. Tap into new publications, head to new events to promote roles, expand your networks

Anonymising applications
Anonymising applications is becoming increasingly crucial (See Be Applied), scoring sections of various applications at once allows you to avoid confirmation bias and stops you from trying to identify with some candidates

Develop clear criteria
Have clear criteria for scoring in interviews and ask the same questions of each candidate when you interview

Interview creatively
Real life engagement with your work or teams can allow some candidates to shine who do not normally do well in interviews. Give them a task and some time to think about how they might go forward, or get them thinking through something with teams they would be working with.

What is meant by unconscious bias?

How many types of unconscious bias are there?

ACAS defines unconscious bias as something which ‘can influence decisions in recruitment, promotion and performance management. It could be discriminatory when the unconscious bias relates to a protected characteristic.’

Applied, a company who specialise in making the recruitment process fair and more inclusive, give four different examples of unconscious bias.

Gapsquare Recommends:

Applied’s ‘The Interview Playbook: How to Run Smarter, Fairer Interviews’, which you can download in full here

Are Your Networks Reproducing Bias?

Be considerate when looking to pre-existing networks to source new recruits. Ask yourself how ethnically diverse your existing networks are, and how you can avoid biases, like University Selection bias, for example, and try to go to networks which specialise in connecting BAME students with work.


BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLE: KMPG have a Black Talent Insight Programme, which offers a variety of opportunities for BAME students.

Expanding your Network: An Exercise

We at Gapsquare often use this exercise in our sessions and workshops. ‘Your Trusted 10’ helps you build an understanding of the power of ‘trust’ in your networks, and will help you understand the biases at play, and the similarities between you and the pepple you place in your ‘circle of trust.’

Why not try this task with recruitment channels, consultants, and agencies you work with? How similar, demographically, are the people you trust to you? Who is missing from your cicle of trust?

Here is a great video about the trusted 10:

How can I make applications inclusive?

What is inclusive hiring?

Research shows that the language used in job adverts is often bias or exclusionary, and can put people off from applying. This has previously been discussed in terms of gendered language – with words like ‘exhaustive,’ ‘enforcement,’ and ‘fearless’ more enticing to male applicants – and the same goes for BAME-exclusionary language; the word ‘stakeholder’ has been found to deter People of Colour.

Think about how you communicate in public job adverts and promotion, and consider checking the language of adverts for bias with apps like gender decoder.

HR zone write ‘There is now a way to make recruiting more ethical, time efficient and talent driven. Is it the beginning of the end for the CV? It should be.”

CVs, as measure of success, focus on experience rather than potential. Gapsquare recommend that you ask candidates to answer questions or perform tasks rather than submit a traditional CV and cover letter, where possible.

Blind grading applications is another way to take bias out of selecting who to interview from applications. A client of Gapsquare’s, the Greater London Authority, uses an anonymised recruitment process to tackling hiring bias.

Inclusive Employers have a useful resource, “Attraction Selection, Harnessing BAME Talent: A Guide for UK Employers”, which lists a number of ways in which to make every stage of the hiring process more fair. Of the application process, they advise you:

Provide candidates with sufficient information to navigate the process and understand what is expected on them

Consider running special recruitment surgeries for those who have questions or would benefit from guidance

Ensure the application pack contains a diversity data monitoring form, and much more

How can I make interviews more inclusive?

We recommend considering the following actions to improve your interview process:

  • Set out your questions carefully: use hypothetical questions rather than experience based questions, to focus on potential, rather than experience. Understand what a good answer looks like for each question, and assign a grading criteria relating to it
  • Ensure interview panels include more than 1 person, and that these people are from different areas of the organisation, different levels of authority, and a mix of genders and ethnicities – Inclusive recruiting says: ‘A mixed panel, not just in terms of diversity, but also intersectionality, helps address the unconscious bias. It also sends a signal to the candidate that there are others, outside of the generic business mould, who are respected and understood in this business – someone they can aspire to be.’
  • Ensure that the panel is familiar with an organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, recruitment best practice and any BAME recruitment targets
  • If possible, develop a structure on how interviews for similar or the same positions should run, and stick to these processes to prevent biases.
  • Collect equalities information for all applicants and analyse it – see which demographics are not applying, which demographics are not making it into interview, and ask yourself what you can do to improve this
  • Remind staff about biases at key moments, like before they hold interviews

Inclusive Recruitment Agencies

We recommend you consider recruiting from BAME-led employment agencies, like BAME Recruitment or Hyden Recruitment, for LGBTQ+ inclusive recruitment there is also MyGWork .

If you’re doing a big recruitment drive or large intern intake, consider setting out and publishing targets for BAME representation – be it a percent of BAME candidates to interview, or a percent to be accepted for the position.


2. Progression, Pipeline and Positions of Influence

What are progression and pipeline issues?

Progression and pipeline refer to career progression, and climbing the ladder in your working life. It involves moving forward, being promoted, finding new challenges and new opportunities in a career.

People of Colour are not afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts. According to the CIPD, one in eight people of the working age population are from a BME background, yet they only occupy one in sixteen of top management positions.

It is not enough simply to hire without bias – organisations need to improve community cohesion, build inclusive workplaces and ensure that PoC at work are able to progress at the same rate as their white counterparts in order to have the same positions of power and influence.

For many, the career ladder that is so obvious to some is a complete mystery. For them, the pathway to the top is unclear, with confusion over which job to seek out at what point in a career.

Ruby McGregor-Smith

How can building an inclusive culture help improve issues with progression and pipeline?

It is essential to shift company culture if you’re looking to improve issues surrounding pipeline and progression. It costs over 30k to recruit a new staff member, so you are wasting your efforts if you focus on recruiting People of Colour without also building a workplace which includes and accounts for them.

Joanna Abeyie MBE works to build inclusive workplaces

Aside from encouraging internal People of Colour to apply for promotions and new positions, we also need to create an environment that is itself encouraging.

Not only will this improve the career trajectory and representation of People of Colour in more influential and higher paid positions within your company, but it will save you thousands in training a new candidate.

Building cultures that are inclusive to all is not always easy and is often a journey that we need to be on continuously.


In an interview with Joanna Abeyie MBE, a leading voice in recruitment of BME employees and how companies can enhance their workplaces by making them a safer, happier space for all we discussed some of the key approaches employers should take to building an inclusive culture. These include:

  • Don’t underestimate the Journey
    Your employees did not have the same journey to where they are in their careers, there were setbacks and challenges that were unique to them, knowing your teams and how they got where they are gives you an incredible insight into their strengths. Similar, at Gapsquare we would say, try to know a little more or open up conversations about life outside of work, you don’t know how incredible your employee is until you understand the full picture. Opening space for mutual understanding can be groundbreaking.
  • Bring In an Outsider 
    If you’re struggling to build a workplace that is welcoming and happy for all, bring in a consultant or ‘outsider’ who knows, someone who represents a group and spends a lot of energy getting to know their experiences, someone who can ask frank questions.
  • Know the USP of your diverse team members
    People are unique, when you look at how they fit into a team, recognise how their ‘Unique Selling Point’ makes the team better. Better team cohesion? More innovative ideas? Improved profit margins? These are USPs that team members can show that has nothing to do with the length of their CV.
  • Listen & Build a Happier Workplace
    “In my experience with talent in the past, there are three things that make anyone happy at work: communication, development opportunities & strong working relationships,” writes Abeyie.

    Communication can be the difference between a situation like the one the BBC had with Carrie Gracie and one where a company comes out with a reputation for adapting and listening to its teams.
  • Once You Know Better, Do better
    “Once we start having the conversations that scare us, we make way for a recruitment process that is better for employers and potential employees alike.”

    The final call to action here, is just that: action. We can sometimes invest a lot of time into learning what we’re doing wrong but don’t feel brave enough to do what’s right. Although there is ambiguity around the right moves to make when it comes to supporting people of colour and wider BME employees, listening, acting and learning is the ultimate goal. Doing nothing is a guaranteed fail.

How can I address barriers to Career Progression for People of Colour?

The CIPD, in their 2017 report ‘Addressing barriers to BAME employee career progression to the top,’ recommend the following actions to improve issues surrounding pipeline.

  1. Understand what is happening in your organisation
    The challenges a company experiences will be different. The CIPD write ‘It’s important to note that when examining how people’s experiences at work differ, we need to be cautious about making generalisations, as our research illustrates that the term BAME encompasses people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and traditions who are facing different barriers to career progression.’ Speaking to your employees, collecting data on career progression and pay, and sharing these insights internally, will help you understand
  2. Be aware of Intersectionality
    Intersectionality refers to the fact we have multiple identities and they overlap – for example, being a gay black man, or an older white woman with a disability. It’s essential to be aware of intersectionality and take the complex and interconnected issues which affect the career progression of People of Colour.
  3. Build inclusive workforces
    This is about more than culture – this is amount improving processes and structures which promote diversity, raising awareness of different cultures and backgrounds, and communicating openly and transparently about routes to the top and the processes around promotion.
  4. Encourage employee voice
    The CIPD write ‘It’s essential that disadvantaged and disconnected groups have access to mechanisms through which they can express their voice. Employee resource groups can be a useful mechanism for employee voice.’
  5. Address unconscious bias
    However it is viewed, unconscious bias is one of the main barriers to equality of opportunity for both access and progression. See our section above on addressing unconscious bias.

3. Paying Fairly & Ethnicity Pay Analysis

Is Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting mandatory?

Since 2017, organisations of over 250 employees in the UK have been required to collate and report gender pay gap data. There is a push for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for companies of the same size – in 2018, the government proposed implementing similar requirements for ethnicity pay gap reporting legislation, though it was not passed. In June

2020, in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, and a petition to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting received enough signatures to be debated in Parliament, and there is speculation that reporting measures will be introduced soon.

What is the Ethnicity Pay Gap?

The ethnicity pay gap looks at the difference between the average hourly earnings of White employees and BAME employees as a proportion of average hourly earnings of White earnings. For example, a positive 15% ethnicity pay gap between White and BAME groups in a company would denote that the mean or median hourly earnings for BAME employees are 15% less than White employees; so, on average, for every £1 a White employee makes, a BAME employee makes 85p.

The CIPD published a report in 2019 in full support of the objective behind ethnicity pay reporting and ‘the need for meaningful action in this area that will drive genuine change.’

What can I gain from looking at my company’s Ethnicity Pay Gap?

A survey conducted by the CIPD in 2019 with 243 HR professionals showed that the top 5 benefits associated with reporting ethnicity pay information are:

  1. To develop a reputation for being a fair and progressive employer (66%)
  2. To address overall workplace inequalities (61%)
  3. To develop greater transparency and accountability (58%)
  4. To ensure that ethnic minority employees have equal access to development and progression opportunities (55%)
  5. To create more inclusive workplaces (55%)

Gapsquare specialise in fair pay and pay gap analysis – our software and consultancy packages empower HR leaders to build pay fairness into their pre-existing structures, and this includes Ethnicity pay gap analysis.

What if I don’t have enough data?

We’ve seen that companies struggle to collect the data they need to conduct Ethnicity Pay Gap Analysis. In a recent study conducted by Gapsquare, we found that 30% of company leaders surveyed didn’t collect any data on the ethnicity of their employees.

PwC’s 2019 Report ‘Taking the Right Approach to Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting’ surveyed 80 organisations, of whom the majority are significant employers in the UK.

They saw even more significant issues with data collection.

So how can you improve disclosure rates amongst your employees? Download our guide to best practice to encourage better data on ethnicity within your company.

Where should I begin with Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting?

The process for establishing, analysing, communicating, and putting measures in place to improve your ethnicity pay gap – and more widely to build fair pay into your company at every level – might seem a little daunting. Gapsquare recommend you separate the process into smaller chunks, as follows:

  1. Defining an Approach

It’s essential to know why you’re conducting ethnicity pay gap analysis and how you plan to approach it. Not only will this streamline your process, but it will enable you to utilise data to enact positive change in your organisation.

Establishing key performance indicators and engaging relevant stakeholders will ensure that the project is understood by everyone involved. Ensure that the plan is holistic and people-focused, so that past the data analytics, you are looking at implementing real initiatives and solutions based on your findings.

2. Planning for data collection

You may already be collecting equalities data, you may be struggling with employee disclosure, or you may be starting from scratch.

We recommend that, whether you’re improving systems already in place or collecting this information for the first time, you explore methodologies for data collection, and focus on clearly communicating the process to employees.

It’s essential to encourage self-identification – both EY and Deloitte connect self-identification to company values and frequently remind employees to update their details, and have seen an improvement in their disclosure rates because of it.

You can use Gapsquare to calculate your Ethnicity Pay Gap, saving you time and letting you focus on using data insights to inform change in your organisation

3. Calculating your Ethnicity Pay Gap (with advanced analytics software)

Define your own methodology for calculating the ethnicity pay gap, if the government’s reporting criteria hasn’t yet been decided. You might choose to used gender pay gap reporting as a model – something we looked into in our 2019 Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting whitepaper – as the CIPD also recommend.

We recommend you ask yourself:

  • Are you comparing across White & BAME employees, or across different ethnic groups?
  • Do you have enough data to deep dive and look at how ethnicity pay gaps change over different departments or locations?
  • If you’d like more extensive data, how are you going to encourage your employees to disclose?
  • Will you be including partners in the calculation of your ethnicity pay gap?
  • Are you going to look at the ethnicity bonus pay gap too?

Advanced analytics software can streamline the process, and save you time to focus on implementing effective strategies and long-lasting change. Ethnicity pay gap monitoring takes thought. With Gapsquare, keep things simple: collect, process and move forward on the right data for your ethnicity reports. Our software offers exceptional ethnicity pay reporting, in-build narrative and consultancy and optional guidance from the team of experts around effective data collection.

4. Implementing an action plan, monitoring, refining & improving

Calculating your numbers is just the beginning – now it’s time to use what you’ve found in you deep-diving to implement real change.

If you’re seeing pay gaps or issues of representation in the lower quartiles of pay, look to improving your recruitment and hiring processes, as in the previous section. If you’re seeing issues in the upper pay grades of the company, then it’s time to look at progression, pipeline and positions of power.

Change, unfortunately, doesn’t happen overnight. This is also an opportunity to reflect on your processes, look into what worked and what didn’t, and set new targets and engagement initiatives to improve your employee’s disclosure rates, and the process of ethnicity pay gap reporting in the future. It helps to set clear targets year on year, and to return to them before conducting more analyses – have a look at EY and Barclay’s ethnicity pay gap reports, for examples of good practice.

Where to go next

Gapsquare are committed to building resources relating to diversity and inclusion, ethnicity pay gap analysis and supporting BAME employees at work. We’re updating this page continually – let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see on it, or any questions you might have, on hello@gapsquare.com


If you are interested in streamlining your Ethnicity Pay Gap analysis and reporting methodology, are intent on reducing other pay disparities, or would like to chat about any fair pay issues, get in touch with the Gapsquare team today.

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