Jun 17, 2020
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John Lewis criticised for lack of management diversity

Jun 17, 2020

John Lewis has come under fire after reports emerged that just six of the company’s hundreds of UK managers are people of colour.

Chairman Sharon White - John Lewis Partnership

Revealing a stark diversity gap in the company’s top jobs, it comes amid a wider debate about racial inequality sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.

According to The Guardian, of John Lewis’ 158 UK managers, only three directors are from an ethnic minority. They include chair Sharon White, who is the first black woman to hold the chairman role at the department store, strategy director Nina Bhatia and customer service director Bérangère Michel.

A spokesperson for the firm said there are three more people of colour in the top ranks but declined to provide names.

The numbers paint a complex picture at the employee-owned retailer. According to its first diversity report, published in January, 13.7% of John Lewis workers identify as being from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background.

But staff members from ethnic minorities tend to be represented in the lower ranks, with 17% of the group’s lowest paid staff from a minority ethnic background versus 3% in the top four management levels.

Sharon White has vowed to improve the business’s diversity, and said the retailer is having an “open and honest debate” with staff on its diversity policy.

She said: “The John Lewis Partnership was formed with equality for all at its very heart and we know we still have work to do to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace.”

Additionally, an internal investigation has been commissioned to “understand what’s driving the difference in the proportion of ethnic minority and white senior leaders – and what we can do about it”, the company said.

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