15 leadership actions for advancing racial equity

Professor Doyin Atewologun and Dr. Manjari Prashar

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Over a year after the world witnessed George Floyd’s murder and the resurgence of BLM, organisations are facing mounting pressure to take action on race and ethnic equality in the workplace. In the UK, the urgent need for change has been recognised by organisations such as The Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority, who recently shared their plans to regulate equality in financial services.



To create the real, systemic change needed to achieve ethnic equality in the workplace, leaders must actively remove the barriers to equality in their organisations in simple, visible ways. Senior leaders have the power and responsibility to do this and yet we’re often asked the question:


“What practical actions can I take to make a difference?”


To address this, we’ve developed an action-oriented, inclusive leadership programme for senior leaders. The programme looks at intersections of difference including race and ethnicity, gender, religion, class and other identities. In the table below, we discuss five barriers to race and ethnic equality (identified in research) along with 15 practical actions that can be taken to remove them.
Here are three steps to get you started on your journey to active, inclusive leadership:


Select one action that you are ready to undertake from each barrier category in the table below.


  •  Think about your position, power and ability to influence others to make a choice that has the greatest impact on numbers of people.


Spell out the specific activities and steps you commit to undertake.


  • Include a timeline, impact measures if applicable and a list of key stakeholders and critical friends who will support you to take those actions.


Make a public commitment to your specified actions.


  • Hold yourself to account by reporting back on your progress to all your key stakeholders (leadership team, staff, employees, clients, press etc.)


Facilitate Social Capital:


  • Share your networks with colleagues who belong to racially and ethnically minoritised groups, make introductions to key gatekeepers who can enable career progression 
  • Run inclusive meetings, include people from diverse backgrounds in your regular activities 
  • Sponsor, mentor, coach individuals who are different from you; broaden your inner circle 


We are naturally disposed to like those who are like us and avoid those who are different. We need to be intentional about making conscious decisions to overcome biases, so:


Nurture Difference: 



Organisational norms are ‘set’ to fit the dominant culture, forcing some people to assimilate, ‘code switch’ and not bring their authentic selves to work, so:


Review Cultural Norms: 



Career accelerating opportunities are more likely to be available to colleagues with comparable potential and talent but who happen to come from the dominant culture, so:


Devise Structural Processes: 



For majority ethnic colleagues there are shadow opportunities that create a pathway to success, while for minority ethnic individuals there is a strong focus on ‘fixing’ or ‘developing’ the group, so:


Create access to leadership: 



These actions are just a starting point. We’d love to work with you to establish a bespoke structure for leadership action at your company. By applying the science of psychology and our Inclusion Ecosystem© approach, we can help you and your senior leaders tackle racial bias, improve equity and inclusion, and get the very best out of diversity in your organisation. Our impact and track record are based on the philosophy that everyone has a role to play to build sustainable and meaningful change. 

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