The Colour of Power


OBV, in partnership with The Guardian and Green Park, have launched our 'Colour of Power' study of race and power in Britain.

See our website here:

Also, see coverage in The Guardian today:

The Colour of has been an extensive research project by OBV in partnership with the Guardian newspaper and Green Park recruitment, that sets out to explore who holds the top jobs in significant public, private and democratic institutions.

The findings paint a very depressing picture.

In 2017 pathways to the very top jobs in the UK for Britain’s Black and minority ethnic communities are almost non-existent. The research looked at 37 areas covering a broad spectrum of public, private and democratic institutions to see who holds the top jobs, and found that only 3.4% of the 1049 top posts were held by BME individuals. This translates to Britain’s most powerful elite being 97% white.

If we were to take out the political posts: Minsters, council leaders and elected Mayors, which account for nearly third of BME senior posts; the BME figures for the public and private sector would fall to around 2%.

The Colour of will show every face in every category of this research to dramatically illustrate the colour and the gender of power at the top level in the UK.

Main findings:

• Of the 1,049 individuals in positions of power in the UK just 36 are BME, or 3.4% of the total. • Britain’s most powerful elite is 97% white • In 2017 pathways to the very top jobs in the UK for Britain’s black and minority ethnic communities are almost non-existent

• Women from BME backgrounds are even less likely to be represented, with just seven BME women on the list – less than 1% of the total

• If the political post’s were taken out, the rate within the private and public sector would fall to around 2%

• The research also shows that the majority of those in positions of power are men; women account for less than a quarter of the names on our list (23.6%)

• Political representation comes out best of all sectors: four leaders of London boroughs, one metropolitan leader, two mayors, three UK ministers, one Scottish and one Welsh minister.

• Lamentable data for BME leadership in the categories of Chief constables, trade unions leaders and local government CEOs, all recording zero or close to zero BME representation at the top.

• Given that between 30-40% of premiership footballers are BME the fact that there is only 1 Black football manager in that league is particularly poor.

OBV’s Director, Simon Woolley stated:

‘The findings are deeply troubling on a number of levels: First, Britain PLC cannot compete to its optimum, whilst people of colour and women are inadvertently locked out. This becomes increasingly important in our post- Brexit world. Secondly, our democratic and public institutions would be immeasurably more effective with greater diversity of views to serve our growing multifaceted, multicultural society. Lastly, by honestly recognising the challenge and effectively dealing with it, we will massively unleash potential talent which would benefit every aspect of our society.’

Green Park’s CEO, Raj Tulsiani stated:

The findings in the Colour of Power serve to underline the reasons why political and business leaders are being confronted with a steady erosion of public trust in institutions. Neither senior business nor political leaderships are making good their aspirations of becoming reflective of the societies they serve. For many the absence of diversity in business leadership is a clear signal that institutions and wealth creators don’t understand the need to modernise corporate stewardship. Globally, there are increasing external pressures to act more boldly on to achieve integrated credible diversity and the UK needs to follow suit if it is to remain competitive in an international economy.”

OBV’s Chair Rita Patel stated:

‘As uncomfortable as the findings are, we must see this as a fantastic opportunity to open up many more pathways in which talent can flourish. Imagine many more of our children and young adults truly believing they can excel in whatever field they seek to choose. We not only turbo-charge British creativity and dynamism, we also create a society that is more comfortable with itself, precisely because we diminish alienation, and the ‘them and us’ blame game’