The Archbishop’s Taskforce - shortlists for senior posts must now include at least one ethnic minority candidate.

The Archbishop’s Taskforce of the Church of England, established last year after the Black Lives Matter protests, have made 47 recommendations to the Church, one of which was that all shortlists for senior posts must now include at least one ethnic minority candidate.

Jonathan Holdsworth

24/04/21

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It said the Church has “an alarmingly retrograde trend” when it comes to ethnic minority senior bishops. Failing to act would have “devastating effects” on the future of the Church.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York welcomed the report but did not commit to enforcing the recommendation on shortlists.

ResearchGate conducted a study that suggests having just one ethnic minority in your talent pool can sway board members in favour of the status quo.

It’s well known that people have a bias in favour of preserving the status quo; change is uncomfortable. So, because 95% of CEOs are white men, the status quo bias can lead board members to unconsciously prefer to hire more white men for leadership roles.

Participants who took part in the study indicated the extent to which they agreed that each candidate was the best for the job. Half of them evaluated a finalist pool that had two white candidates and one black candidate, and the other half evaluated a finalist pool that had two black candidates and one white candidate.

They found that when a majority of the finalists were white (demonstrating the status quo), participants tended to recommend hiring a white candidate. But when a majority of finalists were black, participants tended to recommend hiring a black candidate.

There was a similar result when the focus was on gender. The graph below depicts the likelihood of hiring a woman with one, two, or three women in a pool of four job finalists. The results show a statistical deviation in expected probability. When there is only one woman, she does not stand a chance of being hired, but that changes dramatically when there is more than one. Each added woman in the pool does not increase the probability of hiring a woman, however — the difference between having one and two women seems to be what matters.

Managers need to know that working to get one woman or minority considered for a position might be futile, because the odds are likely slim if they are the lone woman or non-white candidate. But if managers can change the status quo of the finalist pool by including two women, then the women have a fighting chance.

The question is, is more radical action required than The Archbishop’s Taskforce of the Church of England is requesting? The statistics suggest that focusing their time and budget on building minority talent pools & programmes would be far more beneficial than committing to including one ethnic minority candidate to their talent pool shortlists.

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