More than a third of FTSE 100 companies were found to have no ethnic minority representation on their board at the start of this year © Bloom/Getty Images

Some of the most prominent advisory and law firms are among the first businesses to sign up to a charter that pushes for greater representation of black people in senior positions in financial and professional services companies in the UK.

Advisory firms PwC and KPMG and law firms Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith Freehills and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have backed the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and Professions, which was launched on Thursday.

Other supporters include the City of London Corporation.

The charter has been modelled on a similar Women in Finance initiative that was launched four years ago by the Treasury, with the emphasis on measurable data against which firms can assess progress, clear action plans, accountability at the top level of each firm, and independent monitoring. 

Any company that signs up to the charter must follow eight recommendations, including the appointment of a member of the senior executive team accountable for black representation and inclusion and five-year targets. 

The campaign has been devised by barrister Harry Matovu QC, who said: “The charter responds to the urgent call for meaningful action to redress the balance for black professionals in the workplace after so many decades of inaction. It establishes a pipeline for recruitment and career progression for black talent all the way up the corporate ranks of each firm.”

The large law and accountancy firms have been criticised for a lack of racial diversity in their senior ranks. There have also been concerns raised about the slow progress in meeting government-backed targets set four years ago for listed companies to have at least one member from an ethnic minority background on their boards by the end of 2021. 

More than a third of FTSE 100 companies were found to have no ethnic minority representation on their boards at the start of this year.

Ian Field, UK diversity and inclusion partner at Allen & Overy, one of the founding signatories, said: “By putting a focus on using data to track outcomes, insisting on accountability at senior levels and setting targets that challenge everyone reporting against them, the charter will ensure effective and sustainable progress.”

The charter follows quickly on from two other campaigns that aim to address structural problems in bringing through senior black, Asian and ethnic minority executives. The CBI, the employers group, this month founded the “change the race ratio” campaign to support boardroom change and, earlier this week, a scheme that aims to recruit 10,000 interns across industries was also launched.

The charter is supported by the City of London Corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce, set up in the summer in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. 

Andrien Meyers, co-chair of the task force, said: “Even before the Black Lives Matter movement was born, there was a growing awareness of the fact black people are not adequately represented at boardroom and senior management level in the financial and professional services sectors.”

This article has been amended to remove the mention of UK Finance

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