Ethnicity and Hospitality: time to deliver on diversity

In her seminal government review on race in the workplace published in 2017, Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, a Conservative Peer and former chief executive of Mitie Group, stated that although successive governments and employers have professed their commitment to racial equality “vast inequality continues to exist”.

The hospitality sector is no exception. A survey by not-for-profit Be Inclusive Hospitality published in June 2021 found high proportions of professionals from Black (53%), Asian (68%) and Mixed Ethnic groups (57%) reported experiencing racism in the workplace either individually or at a company level.

Personal testimonies from hospitality professionals of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds interviewed for this report – most of whom asked to remain anonymous – supports the view that racism and racial discrimination remains commonplace within the sector.

That’s not to suggest that sector employers aren’t taking issues of ethnic diversity and inclusion seriously. The murder of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter movement has in many cases been the catalyst for the development of new diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies and commitments, or at the very least recognition that racial disparity is an institutional issue that must be addressed.

One interviewee for this report of Black African ethnicity has noticed that “following George Floyd’s murder in 2020 [...] more people realised that race in our society is a real issue and that acknowledging and starting [a] conversation about this was important”.

Another – a female finance manager of Black Caribbean ethnicity – says of her own current employer: “Things have shifted because of the environment we are in. They can no longer be an organisation where they are not aware of who works for them and who uses their services.”

Yet a lack of ethnic diversity in senior positions within pub, restaurant, hotel, contract catering and other hospitality businesses suggests that efforts to improve diversity and inclusion of people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds have yet to bear fruit.

Through discussions with businesses, experts in diversity and inclusion, and hospitality sector professionals from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds, this report explores the racial inequality that still exists within the sector and how businesses can begin to deliver on their diversity and inclusion ambitions.

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