5 March, 2024

Reflections on the Green Park Business Leaders Index 2024 - Raj Tulsiani

This year’s Business Leaders Index is cause for optimism because it shows us that progress is possible.

However, it also lays bare an enormous disconnect between organisations’ narratives about their pace of change and the statistical evidence about that pace of change. Having analysed the data for over 10 years, it’s clear that where industries have charged forward with amplifying their aspirations, but not changed the lived experience of people, or the visibility of representation in their leadership, there are now trust gaps. Consequently, it’s felt like one step forward and two steps backwards, in some areas.

There are three things that we can say with a degree of certainty.

Firstly, the talent is out there, but it can’t be accessed in the same ways, retained in the same ways, or improved in the same ways, as the dominant organisational cultures seem to think. And it needs to be approached in a nuanced and sensible way. Even organisations that have strengthened their diversity at the bottom have had a leaky bucket.

As the numbers illustrate, except for a few organisations and industries, many companies have struggled to progress both gender and ethnicity, in many cases it is one or the other.

Secondly, credible and active role models, who go beyond amplifying their own talent agendas and who are seen as doing something visibly useful as opposed to just looking different, are crucial. If you look at telecoms or certain parts of financial services where there is a reasonable level of representation, those clusters are often linked to a strong female or ethnic minority leader or a credible ally whose personal brand means that the organisation is seen as more inclusive around talent.

Thirdly, no one’s really solved this at every level. Organisations ebb and flow in terms of representation, and if you look at the bigger picture, you often see the Pipeline being less diverse than the Top 20 or the Top 3. It means organisations are filling in from the top, largely through non-executive appointments. More worryingly, it shows they’re unable to create the right career Pipelines lower down the organisation.

That’s one of the main reasons why top talent is moving. It’s not necessarily job dissatisfaction but it is largely around perceived expectations of transparency and the ability to progress. If you don’t have representation at the most senior levels or you’ve had to buy them in from outside, and another organisation can say ‘we build our own,’ individuals are much more likely to move for that.

“If readers of this report could take one thing away from it, it is that there isn’t a single way through all of this.”

What emerges from our analysis over the last decade is that government intervention, including the Parker Review and FTSE Women Leaders Review, together with the threat of regulation, has had a significant effect. It has created an environment where organisations feel the need to do something. In contrast, there’s little evidence in most industries that investor rhetoric or customer behaviour has resulted in any form of material difference in the last 10 years.

At the same time, diminishing levels of trust in corporates make them at risk of creating an increase in polarisation - in terms of both customer and employee behaviour - and a backlash that would make it far too easy for organisations to put race back into the ‘too difficult to deal with’ category.

We believe the production of a credible, inclusive ecosystem goes together with the recruitment, retention and engagement of inclusive business leaders. It creates an environment where a company’s diversity is a renewable fuel for innovation and increases in productivity. It is worth fighting for because the upside is significant.

But it requires expertise, it requires people to be in it for the long run. And it requires a level of honesty, where people are not expecting miracles, but they are expecting evidence of intersectional improvements and an environment where anyone can do their best work and where people are judged based on their own merits.

If readers of this report could take one thing away from it, it is that there isn’t a single way through all of this. Like anything, it takes commitment, accountability and a genuine understanding of the value it brings.


The Green Park Business Leaders Index 2024 - FTSE 350 is a review of the composition of the UK’s most senior leadership, through the lens of gender and ethnocultural diversity.

Raj Tulsiani

Written By

Raj Tulsiani

CEO & Founder

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