28 March, 2022

Trevor Phillips | Is data protection holding back diversity?

A week ago, Sir John Parker issued his latest report on the ethnic mix of FTSE 100 boards. He’s come pretty close to achieving his ambition of getting every board to have at least one person of colour at the table. Hats off to him. However, as ever, there’s a fly in the ointment.

Parker, and his successor David Tyler, Chairman of the White Comany, are both keen to see the “one by 21” extended to the FTSE 350 by 2024. As talent partners to leading enterpises we want to apply all our capabilties to helping in that task, if we are allowed to do so. 

However, under UK law, there remains a grey area over whether employers and agencies such as executive search firms can collect and hold personal data on race and ethnicity for talent management purposes.  Understandably, many of our clients fear that they might be faced with signifcant fines under GDPR. The consequence is that we are unable to offer them the evidence of diversity in the pool of candidates they would like.  

We very much doubt that anyone would like the law to become an obstacle to achieving greater diversity in leadership and greater race equality in business overall. It is four years after GDPR came into force, and we are still waiting for clear positive guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.  We urge the ICO to act without further delay.

Trevor Phillips is Chair of Green Park. The founding Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, he is on the Steering Committee of the Parker Review. To read the full update from the Parker Review, click here

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