US consulting firm refuses work from clients "shielding white supremacy"

18 August 2017

Arizona-based consultancy Spectrum Experience has stated it will refuse work from clients unwilling to embrace the principles of racial equality. The firm made the statement in the wake of President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn far-right violence in Charlottesville, which left a woman dead and many more injured.

Spectrum Experience, a communications and professional services firm based in Tempe, Arizona has declared it will no longer work with clients unwilling to denounce white supremacy. Spectrum works predominantly in political and governmental communications, with the company website stating it exists to promote "inspirational ideas, progressive humanist innovation, and powerful, effective political change." While the firm does expect a minor loss of business, the company felt a clear stance was needed in the light of recent events.

The 12th of August saw thousands of far-right protestors – including self-styled ‘alt-right’ neo-Nazis and even members of the Ku Klux Klan – assemble to put on a show of force. Those attending were said to be chanting slogans including “Jews will not replace us" and “Blood and soil” – slogans heavily alluding to violence targeting ethnic minorities. After an anti-fascist counter-demonstration assembled to denounce the extremists, a car was driven deliberately into their midst, leaving 19 injured and 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead.

Despite mounting pressure to condemn the numerous acts of violence committed in the name of white supremacy which were documented and reported, the increasingly embattled Donald Trump refused to condemn the hardliners responsible. The President instead opted to condemn violence “on all sides”, and implied heavily that anti-fascist protestors had provoked the attacks they were on the end of. Trump’s response was widely condemned as pandering to right-wing extremists, and led to the White House being forced to disband two business councils that were disintegrating in response to his inaction.

US consulting firm refuses work from clients

The Strategic and Policy Forum and the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative were both dissolved as corporate leaders continued to resign days after the initial violence. The collapse of the advisory bodies followed seven different corporate leaders stepping down from the two councils, including the CEOs of both Campbell’s Soup and 3M on Wednesday. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan and a member of Strategic and Policy Forum, said in a statement, “I strongly disagree with President Trump’s reaction to the events that took place in Charlottesville over the past several days.” He added that he agreed with the council’s decision to disband.

Trump meanwhile seemed to dodge suggestions that business leaders were deserting his Presidency –claiming in a Tweet that this was his decision – having previously stated that resignations from both panels were of no consequence. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!” he said on Twitter on the day before the dissolution.


Serah Blain, a senior strategist with Spectrum, said the Arizona consulting firm has meanwhile notified its clients of a new policy regarding anti-racism. Blain stated Spectrum expects to lose “two or three” of its 30 clients, as they now require all business clients to stand up to racism. While Spectrum does not require clients to go out of their way to pledge support to the Black Lives Matter movement per se, the Tempe firm does expect all of its clients to voice that support if they are asked about it, or confronted with it on social media. Spectrum said it will henceforth refuse to work with companies or clients it believes are “shielding white supremacy.”

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” has been a major slogan in the civil rights movement since 2013, first trending as a hashtag on Twitter following the acquittal of George Zimmerman following his shooting of unarmed African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The resulting movement continued to call for then-President Barrack Obama to address racial inequality and violence in modern America. The movement came under sustained attack from Donald Trump himself during the 2016 Presidential election campaign, a move which critics suggested was a method of evading legitimate questions regarding racial inequality in America.

In a company statement on its move, the firm said, “Spectrum Experience is committed to operating a humanist firm that works only with those who share our values. This doesn’t mean that we have full agreement on every issue with every client, but it does mean that we will not help a client work against humanist principles. Shielding White supremacy is, without a doubt, an act that works against humanism…

“Because of this, Spectrum Experience will not work with clients who are unwilling to oppose White supremacy, or to publicly state that Black lives matter. We know that many of our clients have already been doing this for quite some time, but we also know that some of you have shied away from public discussions on racism.”

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Women remain underrepresented in UK's hospitality industry leadership

12 April 2019

Female engagement at the top level of the UK hospitality industry is still lagging, with the vast majority of decision-making roles continue to be held by men. Only 7% of the industry’s FTSE 350 CEOs are women; however, the pay gap in hospitality and leisure is far better than in other industries, at a median of approximately 7%.

The hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers, with 3.2 million people working in its segments. Despite a poor 2018 in terms of tightening consumer spending, the industry is still one of the top sectors in terms of economic activity, hitting £130 billion last year – besting the UK’s automotive, pharmaceutical and aeronautical sectors’ combined activities.

While the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, it still faces considerable issues around diversity at the top. New analysis from PwC has explored the matter, as well what initiatives the industry has engaged to open up its top ranks to a more diverse background.

Female representation at board level for UK companies and HTLs

According to a survey of CEOs, Chairs or HR Directors of over 100 of the most significant leisure businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry has a relatively male-dominated top level. This lags behind the FTSE 100, where companies have female board level representation at 32.2%. Meanwhile, the figure for the combined executive committee and direct reports stands at 28%. This is well above FTSE 250 levels, where female board level representation stands at 22.4% and executive committee & direct reports stand at 27.8%.

For the hospitality industry as a whole, board level representation came in at 23.6%, with FTSE 350 for the industry performing slightly better at 25.1%, while non-listed companies performed considerably worse at 18.2%. The firm notes that the figures hide that while some companies are making strides to improve equality, others are not moving forward – with the positive result reflecting more often the good work of some, while others are not taking the issue seriously in their agenda setting.

Blind spot

The study states, however, that while the overall numbers are relatively strong, the industry has a number of acute weaknesses. These include CEO numbers, with only 7% of HTL FTSE 350 companies helmed by women and 11% of non-listed companies led by female CEOs. Meanwhile, female chairs at FTSE 350 companies for the sector stand at zero. In terms of wider diversity representation, only 1 in 33 leaders at industry companies is from a BAME background.

Pay gap for HTL and hospitality

The report noted discrepancies between FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 in terms of improving the number of women at executive level. The majority have met the Hampton-Alexander Review target of 33% women at board level, up from around 25% in 2016. However, the remaining ~40% are not on target, and are unlikely to meet the target by 2020. A similar trend is noted when it comes to executive committee and direct reporting numbers.

Jon Terry, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC, said, "To make real progress in diversity and inclusion, businesses need to elevate it onto the CEO’s agenda and align diversity & inclusion strategy to the fundamentals of the business."

Tracking progress FTSE 250 level

However, one area where hospitality travel and leisure companies are outperforming other companies in the wider UK economy, is the mean and median pay gap between men and women. PwC found that the median of the wider UK economy comes is approximately 14% – with upper quartile companies noted for a gap of low 20%, and lower quartile companies noted for differences of around 2%.

The median pay gap for HTL comes in at well below 7%, with the median close to parity. There are considerable differences, however, with hospitality at 7%, while travel comes in considerably higher, at 22%. The latter figure reflects fewer women in higher paid pilot and technical positions within the industry.