Call for Scots financial firms to step up support of black workers

A call for “fundamental” changes in the way Scottish financial firms support black workers has been made by a leader in diversity – who wants to see barriers to career progression removed.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:00 am
Diversity leader Enoch Adeyemi says subtle racism in Scottish finance is extremely common. Picture: Brendan MacNeill.

Enoch Adeyemi is chief executive of Black Professionals Scotland (BPS) in Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants –and he says black finance executives in his network are denied promotions and hit a glass ceiling at junior levels.

The finance consultant, who has worked for several banks in Scotland and London, said business leaders and the Scottish government need to introduce detailed reporting measures similar to ones to combat gender bias, so Scotland can break down a “cultural barrier” in attitudes to race.

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He said: “The general belief is that there’s no racism in Scotland and that it’s an American or London issue. But there is subtle racism in Scotland in terms of opportunities not being given to people because of the colour of their skin... in speaking with BPS members, the experience of subtle racism in Scottish finance is very, very common.

“It’s a struggle to get past the CV stage with an African name. Opportunities for progression are very slim and it’s worse in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. Since I founded BPS, I have heard many stories of professionals moving south to London because they see more potential for black people to progress there. Or they move into consultancy, like I have done, so you... don’t have to deal with the frustration of not being promoted.

“The ones who stay in Scottish finance are often bitter and frustrated.”

Such experiences echo the findings of the report Taking Stock – Race Equality in Scotland. Author Nasar Meer, of the University of Edinburgh, found that the employment rate for black and ethnic minority groups in Scotland is 15 per cent lower than that of the white population, for example.

Mr Adeyemi, who grew up in Nigeria, is the founder of BPS, which now has around 500 members and is looking to double this by the end of the year. He is also a member of ACCA’s Edinburgh panel and has been working with the organisation to highlight the issue of diversity and inclusion.

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