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Dismantling structural racism

In recent weeks the issue of race equality has dominated the news agenda as never before. But racism is not confined to police brutality or monkey chants on the football terraces. That is racism at its most crude, visible and visceral. More pernicious is the structural racism in every aspect of our society - not just in our criminal justice system, but also in schools, the media and the workplace.


BAME people in the UK face disproportionate employment outcomes at all levels and even a university degree will not free them from poorer outcomes.

On graduation black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) graduates with a first degree are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white graduates, according to a report from the TUC

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Supporting Ethnic Minority Young People from Education into Work, highlights that 41% of black African graduates, 39% of Bangladeshi graduates and 36% of Pakistani graduates are more likely to be overqualified for their roles, compared with 25% of white graduates.


In the 12 months to December 2019, the unemployment rate was highest for people from a black, and Bangladeshi or Pakistani (8%) background (Unemployment by ethnic background House of Commons Library).

According to the government’s ethnicity, facts and figures website in 2018 9% of black people were unemployed, the highest unemployment rate across all ethnic groups. The unemployment rate for white people was 4%.

When applying for jobs, a study in 2019 by the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford, showed that job-seekers with African or Asian-sounding names had to send 60% more applications to get a positive response than white British candidates, despite equivalent CVs. The figures were even higher for those of Nigerian and MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) backgrounds, at 80% and 90% respectively.

Employment discrimination exists even in areas where there is a large BAME presence – like professional football. At present, only six of the 91 Premier League and English Football League managers or head coaches are BAME. 

The Media

When he was Director General of the BBC Greg Dyke famously described the institution as ‘hideously white’, and a lack of diversity within the British media continues to be a concern. Research, commissioned by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ),found that journalists are less ethnically diverse than the workforce as a whole. Around 94% of journalists are white – slightly higher than the proportion for the UK workforce as a whole (91%). However, the lack of diversity in journalism is even more stark when one recognises the concentration of journalism in London and the south- east, where ethnic minorities live in greater numbers.


Many companies have made gestures in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, such as posting a black square on their Instagram accounts for ‘#BlackOutTuesday’, but they need to take more practical actions too. They need to:

  • ensure that the ethnic make-up of their workforce reflects the make-up of the communities that they serve
  • look at their hiring procedures
  • publicly declare the ethnic make-up of their workforces

In football the Premier League, English Football League and Professional Footballers' Association have announced a new scheme to increase the number of BAME coaches. The aim is to help BAME players move into full-time coaching roles in the professional game. The scheme will start next season and will give six coaches a 23-month work placement at EFL clubs per campaign.

"This is a critical time for black, Asian and minority ethnic coaches," said Doncaster Rovers manager Darren Moore, who is chair of the Premier League's Black Participants' Advisory Group. "We all know and agree that the diversity of coaches and managers must increase and this placement scheme represents a positive step.
"We need to have the right structures and people in place to develop their careers. I know from my own experiences the value of strong support throughout the coaching journey."

In the media the BBC are set to increase diversity by investing £100m of its TV budget over a three-year period to produce "diverse and inclusive content". It has set itself a mandatory target - 20% of off-screen talent must come from under-represented groups. That includes those with a disability or from a BAME or disadvantaged socio-economic background. There will also be three "tests" for diversity in the BBC's TV output, with programmes needing to meet two of them to qualify - diverse stories and portrayal on-screen, diverse production teams and talent and diverse-led production companies. The BBC’s Director General Tony Hall has described the move, which will apply from April 2021, as "a big leap".

BTEG has been working to address the inequalities in employment faced by BAME people for many years. 

Moving On Up is just one such initiative – funded by Trust for London and City Bridge Trust - that aims to increase the employment rates for young black men in London. In Phase One of the programme, from 2015 to 2017 it worked with a network of employment support providers to help young black men into jobs. It did this by:

  • funding work that would improve the support offered to young black men and increase their pathways into employment
  • undertaking policy influencing work to promote greater action to address the issue.

The lessons from Moving on Up Phase One are in the full  Evaluation Report or you can read the summary.

In Phase Two, from 2017, the programme continues to focus on employment outcomes for young black men in London but with a greater emphasis on improving opportunities for young black men to secure skilled jobs in higher-earning sectors including construction, financial services and information technology.    

As well as helping job seekers, BTEG is also working with employers offering training in unconscious bias. Led by Tebussum Rashid, BTEG Deputy Chief Executive, the training is designed to help employers to recognise bias within themselves and the impact of their personal bias on others. Tebussum says: 

“We are delighted to see organisations from all sectors reaching out to BTEG for advice, support and information about our training services. It’s great to see black staff sharing their experiences with leaders, managers and other colleagues. Leaders need to listen and respond with practical actions to achieve positive change.”

Even for those not engaging in unconscious bias training, BTEG believe that all companies should be taking practical action to improve the recruitment, progression and retention of BAME individuals. Employers should consider the following:

  • Introduce ethnicity monitoring (recruitment, progression and retention)
  • Review or pause the recruitment process if there are no black candidates shortlisted
  • Ensure your interview panel is ethnically diverse
  • Recognise ethnic biases staff may have and introduce training

To find out more about how BTEG could support your organisation or our training offer, contact

Photo by fauxels from Pexels


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