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Aspiring towards a more diverse workplace



The UK has so much going for it: despite all the political and economic uncertainties, it is still one of the best places in the world to develop a career, and one of the most outward looking and progressive economic environments.






In London and across the country, world-class educational institutions, charity organisations and renowned museums, arts establishments and publishing houses epitomise this, and amongst our strengths as a nation are our openness and engagement. At Minerva we are privileged to work with many of these organisations, and we are conscious of the ways in which economic, social and demographic challenges are currently putting pressure on these values. A consistent theme in the conversations we have had with clients and candidates over the past year has been the extent to which these challenges are resulting in a political aesthetic that is alienating for everyone:  at what point will it no longer feel like our country anymore?


One of the critical issues we take a keen interest in is how headhunting, if done properly, can contribute to making the system of senior appointments more meritocratic. We are committed to doing whatever we can to make widely accessible the array of jobs and professional opportunities offered by this dynamic marketplace, and to empower the next generation of diverse citizens to perform at the highest levels of management and leadership. It has become more and more important to advance a national workplace that is open to all, from whatever background.   


Over the past several decades the UK has attracted immigrants from around the world to live, learn and work here. While ethnic minority immigrants and British born minorities are, on average, better educated than their white peers, something clearly goes awry as they move from the classroom to the workplace. The disparities in the labour force between white professionals and their black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) counterparts are striking, with employment probabilities considerably lower for both foreign and British born minorities. 


Across nearly all sectors, the proportion of black and minority and ethnic staff diminishes drastically the higher you climb up the professional ladder, and is almost nowhere representative of the overall community.


These figures are especially telling in the sectors we work with most. Higher education, museums and the arts, publishing and third sector organisations exhibit some of the lowest representation of black and minority ethnic professionals. 


Take arts and culture. According to an Arts Council England report, BAME professionals working across its major partner museums stagnated at just three percent between 2012 and 2015.


In the publishing world, a recent survey of 1,000 individuals revealed that more than 90 percent of those working in UK were white British. These results largely mirror those of the 2015 Writing the Future report by Spread the Word, which found that eight percent of the UK publishing workforce identified as black, Asian or minority ethnic.


The underlying factors contributing to BAME representation are numerous and complex. These range from selection bias in appointment panels to cultural constraints within top team cultures and to challenges in individual confidence.


Yet we must collectively imagine and take concrete steps to realise a more inclusive approach. We’ve simply got to do better to recruit a diverse pool of candidates and grow the talent at all levels within organisations in these sectors. 


Minerva was founded on the belief that we positively contribute to the leadership and governance of the sectors we work with and strengthen the pipeline of talent. Our goal is to equip individuals with the tools to build fulfilling careers and collaborate with organisations to build effective senior leadership teams. 


Diversity is at the heart of what we do. Our performance in gender equality has been exceptional since we started in 2014, with women securing close to 50 percent of our nearly 200 appointments. Now we’re bringing the same dedication and expertise to the challenge of improving the balance of appointments by black and minority ethnic candidates. 


To bring this vision to life, we’ll be launching a new initiative to maximise opportunities for talented black and minority ethnic professionals. By combining personalised career development advice such as CV and interview preparation with skills assessment and long-term planning, we’re creating a comprehensive mentoring programme for mid-career executives to enhance their capabilities and launch their careers to the next level.  We’re a small firm still, and won’t change the world overnight, but we’re committed to doing something practical beyond statistical research that tells us what we already know.  


In the coming weeks we’ll share details on how we plan to practically support the BAME community. You’ll also hear directly from BAME mid-career professionals on the specific challenges they’ve experienced throughout their journeys, and how they’re pressing forward to overcome institutional barriers and aspire to the highest levels in their fields.


The task here is a generational one:  it will take a lot of ongoing effort from many different parties to change the picture. We hope you’ll join us in taking this important first step to position both people and organisations for long-term success.


For more information about Minerva’s commitment to diversity or to get involved, please contact us at