Barclays and Deloitte have committed to increasing the number of black employees along with dozens of other businesses.
In an open letter, leaders of 40 firms urged other firms to do the same, saying “what gets measured, gets done”.
The chair of the Equality and Human Rights commission has told the BBC that firms should set targets to recruit more people of colour to senior posts.
David Isaac said firms needed to “play their part” in increasing diversity.
He said the murder of George Floyd in the US had highlighted the “unequal outcomes for people of colour”.
A report entitled the Colour of Power 2020, by diversity consultancy Green Park, said fewer than 5% of the most senior jobs across UK companies, government and public bodies are held by people from ethnic minority groups.
It said the figures have hardly changed over the last few years.
Commenting on the pledge made by the companies, the chief executive of E.On UK, Michael Lewis, said: “We will always stand up for what we believe and to show our solidarity to stop racism, educate others and celebrate the diversity that will give us the strength in our changing world”.
In signing the letter, business leaders have promised to take tangible steps to increase what they call their “black inclusivity”.
Some of these steps include:
- Setting targets to recruit a certain number of black talent and holding recruiters accountable for presenting diverse shortlists
- Investigating specific challenges and barriers faced by black talent in the organisation and conducting focus groups to properly understand the experiences of black and minority colleagues
- Educating workforces on the experiences of black people in the workplace and society at large
- Being vulnerable to staff and admitting leaders haven’t done enough to increase diversity.
Suki Sandhu OBE, the founder and chief executive of Involve, a consultancy promoting diversity and inclusion in business, is behind the campaign and says he has been encouraged by the number of signatures.
“The call to action sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement has not gone quiet and businesses need to step up to maintain the momentum in driving change to improve black inclusion,” he says.
“It is my hope that as more and more CEOs sign the letter, we can use the commitments outlined as a place to start to drive change in the workplace, and monitor progress as these businesses openly report their progress year on year”.
However, there is scepticism among some black staff. One employee, who works at Barclays and did not want to be identified, told the BBC: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The Colour of Power 2020 report states that 1,046 of the 1,097 most powerful roles in the UK are occupied by white people.