Industry must develop a clear strategy on diversity

23 August 2007 by
Industry must develop a clear strategy on diversity

Chris Sheppardson, managing director of recruitment and HR consultancy Chess Executive, calls on the hospitality industry to develop a clear strategy on diversity

Here are a couple of direct questions for you: How many black or Asian industry leaders can you name who are not entrepreneurs? How many board directors in leading corporate hospitality businesses are from an ethnic background?

I can name only a few of each - far fewer than logic would suggest there should be. And there exists some striking data that clearly illustrates how hospitality companies may be missing a real source of talent.

The wealth of Asian entrepreneurs, for example, has grown threefold since 1998, with the top success stories coming in the service sector, which includes hospitality.

Of the 90.8% of the UK's population who are white, 33% are aged over 50. It is estimated that, by 2010, the white population in London will be in the minority, and that this will be true for the whole of the UK by 2100.

Ethnic minorities account for an estimated 15% of the university population, yet this has not yet been reflected in a similar figure for board-level directors. The talent should be coming through, and we should be able to see the signs of it doing so. But can we?

The subject is clearly uncomfortable for many. Why? Is it because it's a touchy topic, or because there is an underlying fear of an accusation of racism and discrimination? This would be understandable, but the truth is that we are struggling to face up to this issue as a society.

While there are still racial tensions in some quarters, things are improving. London, for instance, is today fêted as one of the world's most vibrant cosmopolitan societies - a source of both pride at home and envy abroad. If any profession were making progress in integration, one would have thought that hospitality would be close to the fore. It has always been a meritocracy, a field which rewards talent and does not discriminate against background.

It is easy to blame discrimination, but is it correct to do so? To resolve the issue, we need to get past our fear of discussing the subject. We need to understand this complex issue of integration better than we do to take diversity to the top levels. I struggle to truly understand it. Do you?

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