Ethnic minority firms excel 'against the odds' in the UK

LONDON, Feb 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ethnic minority entrepreneurs succeed “against the odds” in Britain, performing strongly in tech, innovation and in efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, found a first-of-its-kind study seeking to address racial inequalities in business.

The British government does not collect ethnicity data when entrepreneurs register a company, although calls to address unequal representation and pay are growing following last year’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people own about 16% of British firms, although they only account for 14% of the population, found the analysis by Open Political Economy Network (OPEN), a think-tank focused on diversity issues.

BAME companies employ 3 million people and generate 74 billion pounds ($102 billion) a year, OPEN found using artificial intelligence tools to predict owners’ ethnicity on the basis of their name, which researchers later cross-checked.

“Against the odds, minority businesses make a huge contribution to the UK,” Philippe Legrain, founder and director of OPEN said in a statement, highlighting discrimination and disconnection from financial networks as key challenges.

“They are helping to tackle the coronavirus crisis and can help build a fairer, more innovative and more environmentally sustainable Britain in its aftermath.”

BAME businesses have played a key role in developing rapid COVID-19 tests, sourcing personal protective equipment and delivering meals to families during lockdown, the report said.

This is despite the fact that ethnic minorities in Britain have been hit harder by job losses during the coronavirus crisis and face higher health risks from COVID-19 than the population as a whole.

Companies globally are grappling with concerns over racial inequality and a growing number have committed to disclose data on ethnicity. Although it is mandatory to report on gender pay gaps in Britain, there are no requirements relating to race.

Less than 5% of Britain’s top 1,099 roles are held by ethnic minorities, according to the Colour of Power index, although firms with racially diverse executives are more likely to see higher profits, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. ($1 = 0.7251 pounds)