Chamber launches North East race, ethnicity and discrimination commission

One of the first business-led commissions into how to tackle barriers to opportunities created by racial and ethnic discrimination will start its work today (9 September 2020). 


Established by North East England Chamber of Commerce, the commission will be chaired by Nagma Ebanks-Beni MBE, commercial director of Global Chamber member Seaham-based Prima Cheese.   


She said: “There is a disconnect between society’s make-up and representation of the same people in business, at all levels. Evidence shows clearly culturally and ethnically diverse companies are more successful both economically and socially but this research is not just about money.  Fighting discrimination is also morally right.   


“There is some overt racism in our society but it is unconscious bias that is still particularly widespread and where this commission can make the biggest difference.  Everyone needs to be aware of how to encourage diversity and what it means to be inclusive.  This will only be achieved with a determined drive from the top down.” 


The Commission will focus on areas including socio-economic status and pay levels, barriers to early career employment opportunities, workplace discrimination, representation in specific business sectors and senior positions and entrepreneurship.   In order to understand why racial disparities exist in these areas, and how they can be combatted, the Commission will consider quantitative and quantitative evidence and testimony from expert witnesses. 


Results from the work, which will be published in six months time, will develop recommendations for North East businesses to tackle racism, prejudice and discrimination.  They will also identify opportunities for the Chamber to adopt and promote best practice in relation to issues such as recruitment and board representation.  


The findings are going to enable provide real-life examples to help champion the benefits of adopting a positive and inclusive approach to business.  They will challenge misconceptions around the concepts of equality and diversity with regards to race and ethnicity. 


Nagma Ebanks-Beni said: “There is a need to promote role models from the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community to let the next generation see what can be achieved.  To achieve the commission’s aims we don’t need sympathy, we need empathy.  It will be a subtle but powerful change if everyone considers how their actions, no matter how small, can have a huge impact on someone’s well-being.  This is what will make the difference.   


“I’m sure everyone who is from a minority background has experienced some form of discrimination.  It is like layers of paper, each sheet is not heavy but when you have a ream it weighs heavy.  This Chamber commission will work hard to ensure it helps to create a richly-diverse business community where everyone is given a fair opportunity to progress and succeed.” 


Businesses interested in finding out more about the commission’s work can email