BAME = Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.
We've been hearing these terms more and more frequently over the last few years, in public discussions and in the media.
And looking at the parties' manifestos for the December 2019 election, we are seeing these terms used there too – more than they were used in the same parties' manifestos for the June 2017 elections.
The Conservative manifesto of 2017 didn't expressly use the term "BAME", although it did say "We will reduce the disproportionate use of force against Black, Asian and ethnic minority people in prison, young offender institutions and secure mental health units…launch a national campaign to increase the number of Black, Asian and ethnic minority organ donors …[and] ask large employers to publish information on the pay gap for people from different ethnic backgrounds".
Their 2019 manifesto does use the word "BAME", saying they:
- will "expand start-up loans, which have particularly high take-up from women and BAME entrepreneurs"
- "want to see more entrepreneurs, including women and those from BAME backgrounds", and
- will "protect people from physical attack or harassment whether for their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity…".
The Labour manifesto of 2017 did use the term "BAME" including saying that they would "work to eliminate institutional biases against BAME communities, that mean you are still far more likely to be stopped and searched as a black or Asian man" and noting that "Black and Asian workers still suffer a massive pay gap. By introducing equal pay audit requirements on large employers, Labour will close this pay gap. By making the Minimum Wage a real Living Wage, we will benefit ethnic minority workers who are more likely to be on low pay. We will implement the Parker Review recommendations to increase ethnic diversity on the boards of Britain’s largest companies."
Their 2019 manifesto again talks about BAME groups, again with a more frequent reference to BAME matters, saying that they will:
- see that "Targeted bursaries will be available to women, BAME people, care leavers"
- (in healthcare) ensure "all our services are made accessible to BAME, LGBT+ and disabled patients"
- "work to eliminate institutional biases against BAME communities... the use of expanded powers means black and Asian men are still more likely to be stopped and searched"
- "tackle the disproportionate levels of BAME children in custody"
- "extend pay-gap reporting to BAME groups and tackle pay discrimination on the basis of race"
- "Commit our National Investment Bank to addressing discrimination in access to finance, which many BAME business owners face; and take action to ensure that BAME and women business owners have access to government contracts and spending"
- "Implement recommendations of the Lammy Review to address the disparity of treatment and outcomes for BAME people within the criminal justice system"
- "review the curriculum to ensure that it enriches students and covers subjects such as black history"
- "Create an Emancipation Educational Trust to educate around migration and colonialism, and to address the legacy of slavery and teach how it interrupted a rich and powerful black history which is also British history", and
- "ensure that black and Asian soldiers who fought in Britain’s colonial armies receive a full apology and explore ways to compensate them for the discriminatory demob payments they received compared to their white counterparts".
The Liberal Democrats manifesto of 2017 used the term "BAME" frequently, with more election promises for BAME people than the Conservatives and Labour made in their manifestos for that same year.
The Liberals said they would "Work with the Apprenticeship Advisory Group to increase the number of apprentices from BAME backgrounds", "Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps", "Require diversity in public appointments. We will introduce a presumption that every shortlist should include at least one BAME candidate", "Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities", "Resource BAME staff associations such as the National Black Police Association to increase ethnic diversity and BAME participation in the police", "Reduce the overrepresentation of individuals from a BAME background at every stage of the criminal justice system, taking into account the upcoming recommendations of the Lammy review", "Introduce legislation to allow for all-BAME and all-LGBT+ parliamentary shortlists", and "Continue the drive for diversity in business leadership…and implementing the recommendations of the Parker review to increase ethnic minority representation".
Their 2019 manifesto continues its focus on BAME groups, saying that they will:
- "Increase access to a broader range and number of clinically effective talking therapies…with equal access for older people, BAME and LGBT+ patients"
- "Require that a fair proportion of all public funding for health research should be focused on research into mental ill-health, including research into the different mental health needs of different communities within the UK such as BAME and LGBT+ people"
- "Reduce the overrepresentation of people from BAME backgrounds throughout the criminal justice system" (with their proposals on how they will do this)
- "Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps"
- "Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities and review the funding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that it is adequate"
- (in relation to reforming British politics) "Legislate to allow all-BAME and all-LGBT+ shortlists"
- "Continue the drive for diversity in business leadership…and implementing the recommendations of the Parker review to increase ethnic minority representation", and
- "Establish a national fund for projects that work in schools to raise the aspirations of ethnic minority children and young people".
What it means
Whichever way you look at it, BAME matters are far higher on the politicians' radars than they were two years ago, indicating how awareness of BAME inequalities and rights have become more prevalent in the public's (and media's) consciousness also.
The understanding of BAME-related matters has also expanded. In the 2017 manifestos, there was much focus on relations between the police and BAME people and on equal pay for BAME workers - whereas in the 2019 manifestos, the policies to benefit BAME people are far wider-ranging including loans for BAME entrepreneurs, a review of the school curriculum to ensure it covers black history, and recognising that mental health needs of BAME communities may differ from other communities.
Angela Lopes, an associate in our Construction and Engineering team, is a member of our WBD Diversity & Inclusion Group and leads the WBD affinity network for BAME colleagues. She says:
"It is encouraging to see the conversation around BAME, diversity and inclusion becoming more prevalent in the political sphere and this progress is definitely welcome. However, in order to achieve real impact, it is vital that the machinery of politics in the UK becomes more representative of modern society. For instance, although minority ethnic population is on the increase overall, in most cases, the proportion of people from non-white backgrounds in political and public positions are lower than in the population as a whole – and often markedly so. In September 2019, 52 or just over 8% of Members of the House of Commons were from non-White ethnic backgrounds. If the ethnic make-up of the House of Commons reflected that of the UK population, there would be about 90 non-White Members. So for me the topic of BAME diversity and inclusion in politics should be both inward facing and outward facing."
Tracy Walsh, partner in our Pensions team, WBD Global Board Member, and UK Board Sponsor for Diversity and Inclusion, adds:
"Government policies and mandating certain practices are good flags to wave, but we have to start looking at and tackling the underlying reasons for the lack of progress. In 2017 Sir John Parker recognised that one reason was the distinct lack of BAME people in leadership and decision-making roles. And yet, despite his Government-endorsed target of at least one minority member on every public, private and third sector board, pressure from the Government, shareholders and consumers, and a wealth of suitable, proven candidates, progress has flat-lined according to the BAME 100 Business Leaders index published by Green Park in September this year. Are boards failing to take a rigorous, wide-ranging search for diverse candidates or do they just not want to appoint outside a small group of BAME directors?
"We also know from gender pay gap reporting that closing any gap requires a co-ordinated and intentional recruitment, progression and reward strategy within any given organisation. Well actually, that same strategy would address a number of other systemic issues too, but it requires employers in the public and private sector need to rigorously combat what is often unconscious and infrastructural bias (not just in relation to BAME but also social mobility). It's this that creates the headwinds experienced by BAME candidates and prevents them from genuinely experiencing equality of opportunity."