June 20, 2002
Gays and lesbians are being targeted for recruitment by Britain's biggest company, BP, as part of a drive to ditch traditional business prejudices.
Women and foreign nationals are also being sought by the world's second largest oil and gas group, which is determined to rid itself of the "golf club culture" it believes encourages only white Anglo-Saxon men.
The company's chief executive, Lord Browne, outlined the strategy at a Women in Leadership conference yesterday in Berlin. He said "human capital" was more important than all the plants and equipment needed for exploiting oil and gas reserves.
The company is hoping to attract gay and lesbian staff in Britain and the US by offering equal benefits for partners in same-sex relationships. This ensures that the traditional offer to spouses of pension rights, death benefit provisions and relocation allowances are extended to gay partners.
"If we can get a disproportionate share of the most talented people in the world, we have a chance of holding a competitive edge," Lord Browne said.
"That is the simple strategic logic behind our commitment to diversity and to the inclusion of individuals - men and women regardless of background, religion, ethnic origin, nationality or sexual orientation. We want to employ the best people, everywhere, on the single criteria of merit."
BP rebranded itself two years ago as "beyond petroleum" to underline its growing commitment to renewable fuels, and last night one commentator said it was clearly aiming to go "beyond prejudice".
The company already has women as heads of shipping and group security in the Middle East, both positions which would have been regarded in the past as men's work. Last year almost 40% of recruitment at graduate level was of women, while the number of women in the 40-strong senior management team has risen from zero to five since 1998.
It is also busy recruiting abroad and over the same period has increased by 50% the number of staff in the top team who come from outside the Anglo-Saxon world.
And yesterday the trade and industry secretary, Patricia Hewitt, urged companies to review their employment policies to make sure workers from ethnic communities were given a chance of jobs. "It is clearly the right thing to do but also makes sound business sense to cast the net as wide as possible when fishing for new talent," she said.
Her call, in a speech to the European parliament in Brussels, came as a survey of 99 leading British companies and public sector organisations identified only 44 people from ethnic minorities in positions at board level. The organisations, employing 2.75 million people, demonstrated their commitment to equal opportunities by becoming members of the Race for Opportunity network, an offshoot of Business in the Community.
The 99 organisations estimate they employ about 10% of Britain's workforce. People from ethnic minorities made up 8.9% of their non-managerial staff, but only 4.1% of managers and 3.4% of senior managers.
The survey measured its members against 10 race indicators, from equal opportunities in employment to the targeting of ethnic minority customers in marketing and sales campaigns. BT emerged as the top performer in the private sector and the army was No 1 in the public.
More than a third of the organisations said their race strategy "made a measurable impact on their bottom line in terms of customers".
Allan Leighton, chairman of Race for Opportunity, said: "UK business has come a long way in realising that to be successful the issue of race cannot be dismissed or marginalised. Otherwise a significant business opportunity, talent and business advantage will be wasted." –Mail & Guardian
Lord Browne on sexual orientation