12 October, 2010
Comparing like with like
Let's leave on one side the pernicious implication that monitored and enforced ethnic proportionality is a necessary concern in a supposedly equal and diverse society, lest we get into an exchange of hot air about the "hideous blackness" of the football premiership, track and field athletics and the more garish forms of popular entertainment.
Let's also leave aside the fact that the statistics quoted in the linked article imply that at working level (wonderful phrase, that!), BME employees are already broadly proportionately represented in local authorities, certainly in the Metrolops.
The article quotes a figure of 31% for the BME population of London (GLA estimate, 2005) as compared with about 15% BME representation at senior ("management board") level. To be honest that doesn't seem too bad to me.
But exactly whom are we comparing?
I don't believe I have ever seen any of the numerous articles whining about the underrepresentation of yer Darkies in appointed senior positions which actually takes proper account of demographic cohorts.
How do you get to be a senior executive? For most people this involves gaining skills, experience and reputation over decades of increasingly senior work in their chosen business area. Native language and cultural skills and native educational qualifications are a big help. Your typical senior executive is in his (or even her) fifties and has spent perhaps 30 years in the relevant field. In other words the current crop are predominantly people born in the 1950s, either born in the UK or certainly living here since, say, at latest early adolescence.
So, then, what proportion of the UK's BME population falls into this category, as compared with the corresponding cohort of the White British population? No, I don't know either. But I'll bet it's a damned sight smaller that 31%, even in London. When I started at grammar school in Manchester in 1959, about 1% of the pupils (literally 6 boys out of a school roll of 630) were visible BME. It is entirely without ironic intent that I can report that that proportion struck me at the time as being "vibrantly diverse" (although that particular terminology had yet to come into use). Even when I came to live in London in 1974 the visible BME population seemed to be about 10% or so. These are the numbers we need to be comparing with.
The more I think about it, the 15% BME senior management presence implied by The Latest's piece seems to be not a disgraceful underrepresentation but a suspicious overrepresentation. Has someone been indulging in a spot of crafty "positive discrimination", perchance?