Racial diversity is a business problem

first_img Comments are closed. HR can help in the CRE’s drive for racial equality by promoting it to the boardas a business necessity. We learn how Trevor Phillips, the organisation’s newchief, plans to target the private sector as a priority, by Paul NelsonThe new head of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) realises howpowerful an image can be. When Personnel Today met Trevor Phillips, ex-television journalist andproducer, he was adamant that he wouldn’t pose for photos in front of the CRE’sblack and white holding hands logo. It is “too simplistic”, he said,before vowing to scrap it and replace it with an emblem that better sums up thechallenge for racial harmony in multi-cultural Britain. Phillips is certainly keen to advance the CRE’s cause. He plans to targetthe private sector for a serious improvement in race relations, because theyare not directly covered by race legislation. He also wants HR to makediversity mainstream by selling it to their boards as a way of increasingprofits. Phillips believes HR directors must run with the ball – selling diversity totheir firms as a business benefit, and not simply as a way to tackle a socialproblem. He feels that HR directors currently believe diversity is ‘dumped’ onthem, and the only way they will get support from other areas of the firm is topromote it as a business necessity. “HR directors aren’t Martin Luther King, they are hired to make theirorganisations work. We need to move out of the missionary position to one wherepeople think about the business,” Phillips said. “Some HR directors have taken a different approach and are aggressivein treating diversity as a business problem and not a social one. Wherecompanies state they are doing it [diversity] to hit targets so everyone has ajob next year, people will join in.” Phillips believes this is the only approach that will make business leaderscommit to mainstreaming diversity in firms. “The chief executive is brimming with racial niceness and says to theHR director, ‘Make us an inter-racial paradise’. And the poor HR director hasto report back to the chairman, and if they have not made it wonderful, thenthey have failed,” Phillips said. “A lot of HR directors feel ratherdumped on.” Phillips believes the private sector is “afraid of the CRE”, andadmits it doesn’t work closely enough with private companies. However, hewarns, he will not shy away from instigating formal investigations if they donot change their attitudes. He told Personnel Today that all private sector firms delivering publicservices must comply with the Race Relations Amendment Act (RRAA), which forcespublic bodies to actively promote racial equality. Employers must also publishannual reports charting progress and action plans in this area. He said the Government’s policy of encouraging private organisations to fundthe modern-isation of the public sector has led to an ever increasing number ofprivate firms delivering public services, creating a grey area in the law. “Even if the law [RRAA] does not specifically cover private sectorcompanies, we think it essentially captures private sector companies that workfor the public sector. I am going to operate as if it does,” Phillipssaid. “Why should public money be spent in a way that is racially biased? Icannot accept that. Everyone involved in a public-private partnership and acontract that provides services to the public sector – both morally and legally– will have to observe the public duty.” He admits the CRE must change its ways if a new, closer working relationshipis to be successful. “They [the private sector] are asking us how they cando it [improve racial diversity in the work-place] and that is the challenge wehave not quite risen to yet.” Phillips backs recommendations in a recent Government report, which calledon the CRE to ‘name and shame’ racist employers by making greater use of itsinvestigatory powers to put the spotlight on firms with bad equality practices– although he said he will give employers every opportunity to improve beforeusing the full force of the law that he has at his disposal. “There will be a considerable effort in tackling the image the privatesector has of us as a ‘heavy handed copper’,” he said. “I wouldrather the CRE is viewed as a friendly GP, who will give all the medicine andadvice to help an organisation to get healthy. But if a firm is going to disobey,then we will administer the nasty medicine or have it put into hospital. I ampretty straight with people, we will instigate formal investigations.” He also backs the Government’s move to merge the six equalities bodies(SEB), which include the CRE, the equal opportunities commission, thedisability rights commission and the Employers Forum on Age. He believes itwill give them more respect and influence over mainstream diversity issues. Phillips feels that because the individual specialist bodies look afterdifferent equalities areas, they are “marginalised”, viewed as an”add on” and done as “a favour”. He cites the instance ofone body overseeing the case of a black woman working in the City earning lessthan her white male colleagues as an example of how the new system can work inpractice. He wants the merged body to share core functions, including communication,management, estate and property. But he wants to ensure that existing expertisein specialist areas remain. Phillips is also promising to radically overhaul the racial diversity of hisown senior team by introducing more white commissions, as he fears the CRE isregarded as a place where “black people get together to whinge.” www.cre.gov.ukTrevor Phillips’ CV– 2003 – Chair, CRE – 2002 – Deputy chairman, GLA– 2001 – Chairman, GLA– 2000 – Member of the Greater London Authority– 1993 – Deputy general secretary, TUC– 1981 – Television journalist/producer (including head ofLWT’s current affairs 1992-1994)– 1980 Researcher, London Weekend Television Racial diversity is a business problemOn 29 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.last_img