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UKBBS founder Raphael Sofoluke addresses current state of ethnic diversity in UK business industry

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Solape Alatise in London

Founder of the UK Black Business Show (UKBBS) Raphael Sofoluke says three issues that reflect the current state of diversity in British business are: a lack of involvement from executives in the diversification process, tokenism and unconscious bias.

Mr Sofoluke said: “CEOs need to get involved and be hands on with the diversification process.” He explained that he feels there is a level at which efforts to diversify stop in the work force hierarchy.

Self-published authors and owners of blog Curlture UK, Trina Charles and Jay-Ann Lopez, echoed Mr Sofoluke’s sentiments. Ms Charles said: “The impact of a lack of CEO involvement is bad decisions.”

On the issue of tokenism, Mr Sofoluke said it needed to go. The motivation for creating a diverse business environment should not just be to meet quotas.

Ms Lopez said: “Tokenism is a mayor thing. You want diversity but don’t want to spend the money. Diversity is not the end game but inclusion is. Inclusion means money goes further. Going into ethnically diverse streams.” She added that diversity was often “a marketing ploy over internal structural change”.

Companies can tackle unconscious bias by making efforts to identify creative ways of sourcing talent says Mr Sofoluke, giving the example of businesses attending events like Women in Tech to find new business. Additionally a good interview and hiring process is important. He says interviews in particular, should be conducted by a mix of interviewers with different backgrounds. He believes that businesses’ ability to innovate increases when they diversify.

Another major contributing factor to the state of diversity in UK business is funding. Mr Sofoluke said that one of the main challenges he faced when starting UBBS was funding. Coming from a sales and marketing background he said he came to realise that it wasn’t about waiting for a huge amount of money to come in.

He said: “Position yourself as a brand that can attract the right sponsors and individuals who are willing to invest. Creating a brand which is professional.”

Ms Lopez added that the funding deficit amongst some black businesses, is as a result of their failure to take full advantage of vertical markets; vertical markets consisting of numerous potential buyers in a particular sector. Ms Lopez said: “When we go into vertical industries we don’t look at all the streams of income.”

It seems clear from the comments made by Mr Sofoluke, Ms Charles and Ms Lopez that though there are significant hurdles that represent the current state of ethnic diversity in UK business, there are hands on solutions.

“Diversity and inclusion can’t just be a talking point” said Mr Sofoluke.