Colour of Leadership

Research and analysis to establish, track and report on Black representation in the boardroom and executive teams of the top 500 organisations in the UK.

The problem

(Lack of) existing evidence on Black representation in the boardroom and executive teams of UK organisations.

There is compelling evidence to suggest that it makes business sense for corporate boards to reflect their customers, clients, and employee base. Yet, it appears that across industry and public institutions, there is a distinct lack of Black people in leadership and executive management roles.

So what is the level Black representation in the boardroom and executive teams of UK organisations?

Existing studies of diversity in leadership like The Parker Review1 is presented in terms of aggregate BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) representation. Therefore it is difficult to understand if there are any disparities in representation of Black people, compared to say Asian/Asian British ethnic group or people from the Indian ethnic group.

Furthermore, data collection is often restricted to a small number of major, well-known institutions like the FTSE100 (and to some extent FTSE 250) companies without taking into account equivalent unlisted organisations that may be of similar significance such as foreign entities, or organisations with alternative legal structures like mutuals, co-operatives and partnerships.

However, most FTSE 350 companies (the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 combined) failed to report on targets for their boardroom ethnic diversity, according to the Parker Review, while there was limited reporting on monitoring ethnic diversity, especially in FTSE 250 companies.

Indeed, an annual review of the UK Corporate Governance Code published by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in January 2020 shows that there was limited reporting of diversity beyond gender representation2.

By measuring Black representation on the board and executive leadership of the UK’s most significant organisations, we can create a common yardstick to address the following questions:

  • What is the level of Black representation in leadership UK industry
  • How is it changing over time?
  • How does it vary by role type, organisation, and sector?

More specifically, this project aims to:

  1. Establish a Black representation benchmark that captures the true extent of Black representation in the boardroom and executive teams of the top 500 companies in the UK to include companies in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250, as well as 150 of the most significant unlisted organisations.
  2. Put in place facilities to track ongoing changes and updates in the leadership of these 500 companies, thereby creating a unique dataset that can be used to analyse Black representation in leadership roles by firm and sector over time.
  3. Use the data to see how Black representation in these senior roles evolves over time by firm and sector – in order to see what gains, if any, are to publish these results in a progress report of Black representation on boards and executive teams.
  4. Create a robust set of easy to use templates and materials, as well as data visualisation tools, to aid with presenting the data (or highlights from the data), and to facilitate engagement with members of the public.

Research context

There is an increasingly broad-based consensus about the need for diversity in the leadership of organisations in the UK, with concerns that organisations need to represent the society of consumers they serve. But much of the focus has been on gender diversity in recent years.

It can be argued that diverse board and executive leadership is desirable from a representation perspective because decisions taken by these organisations can have a significant impact on the UK economy. As such, there is a case for the decision-makers being representative of wider society – not just gender.

However, despite the scrutiny and public commitments to fostering an inclusive culture, there is little evidence to suggest that Black representation on the board and executive leadership teams of the UK’s most significant organisations is improving, or otherwise.

What we’ve done so far

  • We have created a pilot using the top 10 food and grocery retailers in the UK.
  • Obtaining feedback from the pilot.
  • Securing additional resources.

Future developments

  • Ongoing annual tracking and progress reporting.

Support this project

For more information about this project, and to get involved, please contact the project manager via email at

This project is part of our Leadership and Boardroom Representation theme.


  1. Ethnic Diversity Enriching Business Leadership: An update report from The Parker Review. Published February 2020.
  2. The Annual Review of the UK Corporate Governance Code published by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). Published January 2020

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