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‘No place to hide’: The Palace admits it needs to do more on staff diversity

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Buckingham Palace has said they “must do more” to increase the diversity of their workforce after publishing for the first time their numbers of ethnic minority staff.

The royal household has revealed in its annual financial accounts for 2020-2021 that its proportion of employees from ethnically diverse backgrounds stands at 8.5%, with a target of 10% for 2022.

The percentage in the UK as a whole is around 14% according to a 2018 Race Disparity Audit commissioned by the government.

In March, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex accused the royal family of racism in their Oprah Winfrey interview. But palace sources stressed that changes in the household strategy towards diversity significantly predated the allegations made by Meghan and Harry.

Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey will air on Sunday Pic: CBS
Image: Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey ruffled feathers Pic: CBS

A senior palace source said the household had published the figures so there could be “no place to hide” and so that they would be held accountable if no progress is made in the future.

“We are not where we would like to be despite our efforts,” the source said. “It is not that we have not been progressing diversity and inclusion initiatives during this period, it is that simply the results have not been what we would like.

“We have continuous engagement with external advisers, organisations that are at the grassroots level who sit on our steering committee, people who are able to give us a different voice, a different perspective. And we recognise that we must do more.

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“One of the key points about the publishing of our statistics, which is actually on a voluntary basis, is that there’s no place to hide. We fully expect you to come back and hold us accountable for the progress that we made. And if we don’t make the progress, we’ll have to explain why.”

The source said that releasing the figures, which were previously monitored internally, was a “significant step”.

The royal finance report also explains how in early 2020 the diversity strategy within the palace was changed to one that actively emphasises the importance of inclusion.

Previous suggestions that the palace was appointing a ‘diversity tsar’ to help improve representation were denied, although the idea was not entirely ruled out.

Six out of 10 of the Prince of Wales' senior management team are women Pic; AP
Image: Six out of 10 of the Prince of Wales’ senior management team are women Pic; AP

In the annual report for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, diversity figures show that 60% of the senior management team at Clarence House are female, with 8% of staff from ethnic minority groups. A senior Clarence House spokesperson agreed that more work is needed saying: “On that question of ethnic minority diversity we are not where we need to be.

“This is not withstanding a great deal of work that we’ve been doing to target our recruitment, to work with an ever increasing number of partners who will help us to improve those figures, to train our managers to make sure that we work together to build a more inclusive workplace….we are determined to do better.”

During their interview with Oprah Meghan the Sussexes claimed that questions were raised concerns with Harry about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone might be before he was born.

Following the interview the Queen issued a statement saying that the issues raised especially around racism were being taken seriously but that “some recollections may vary”.

The Duke of Cambridge also publicly spoke out about the comments, when asked about them he replied “we’re very much not a racist family”.