BAME is an acronym for ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’. It is used as a collective term by the media, recruiting teams, the government and public bodies as a way of referring to ethnic minority groups in society. BAME is rooted in the anti-racist movement in the mid to late 1970s whereby political activists came together to fight against discrimination.
In industries such as technology, BAME is used to measure diversity in the overall workforce. In a recent study conducted by Tech Nation, it was revealed that just 15% of the digital tech workforce in the UK are from BAME backgrounds. This highlights that there is still a lack of diversity in tech, which is reflective of the overall diversity figures for the UK. In the most recent Census of the total population, BAME groups made up just 14% of the total population.
BAME has been a term used in the UK for almost 40 years, and has been used to drive positive change and improve diversity. For example, networks such as UK-Bame campaign for equality, inclusion, and diversity as best practice in organisations and society alike. They provide networking opportunities to make sure voices are heard and minority groups feel supported.
However, over the years and in more recent years especially, the term BAME has come under scrutiny for being more segregating than it is inclusive, and this has led to questions being raised of whether there’s actually a place for the term in society going forward.
Zamila Bunglawala, Deputy Head of Unit & Deputy Director of Policy, Race Disparity at the Cabinet Office has recently highlighted potential problems with the use of BAME. In a blog for the Civil Service Bunglawala suggested some key issues with BAME as a term. She asked 300 people what the term meant and only a 2 actually recognised what the term stood for. She also highlighted that the term is not necessarily well received amongst ethnic minorities who feel like it’s too general and erases individuality. To illustrate how BAME may be perceived as too much of a sweeping phrase Zamlia Bunglawala reflected on her own situation saying “Like many ethnic minorities, I proudly refer to my specific ethnic identity – my background is Indian.”
As with any debate, there are also examples of people who advocate the use of the term BAME and feel as though it’s a helpful way to measure and increase diversity. BAME can be used to create positive change and showcase success, for example the Financial Times and Inclusive Board’s 100 BAME Leaders in Tech list. The list highlights 100 BAME leaders in tech who are driving change, but perhaps more importantly it also raises awareness of the statistics surrounding ethnic minorities in tech. In this year’s list, the inclusive board released supplementary statistics drawing attention to the fact that only 8.5% of senior leaders in tech are BAME. Using BAME in this way raises awareness of the importance on consistently evaluating diversity in the tech sector in order to come up with solutions about how to change the situation and increase representation across the sector.
There are varied opinions on the use of BAME as a term to describe minority groups, but central to both sides is that diversity and inclusion should be core to any tech organisation. For information on effective diversity and inclusion strategies that can help with increasing diversity in tech see our guide here.