Royal Family Releases First Ethnic Diversity Figures—And Vows To Do Better

Queen Elizabeth II's household conceded it could do better at hiring people of color—as aides published ethnic diversity figures for the first time.

The Royal Household revealed 8.5 percent of employees are from ethnically diverse backgrounds, but would like the figure to rise to 10 percent by 2022.

However, the commitment comes against the backdrop of a recruitment freeze brought on by COVID-related financial problems—restricting the hiring of new staff.

Sir Michael Stevens, the Queen's most senior financial manager, told a press conference: "For the first time we have disclosed the proportion of ethnic minority employees in the royal household at 8.5 percent.

"We have a target to get that to 10 percent by the end of 2022."

Meghan accused an unnamed royal of expressing concern about how dark her unborn baby's skin might be in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March.

And earlier this month The Guardian unearthed declassified government documents detailing a palace policy of not appointing "immigrants" to clerical jobs up until at least 1968.

However, the royal family's annual financial report, known as the sovereign grant report, suggested plans to release ethnic diversity data for the first time date back to early last year, before either of those revelations had emerged.

With 556 employees in total, the 8.5 percent figure would mean around 47 staff from ethnically diverse backgrounds are currently employed.

Meeting next year's target would involve hiring approximately eight more if no white personnel leave.

Data from the 2011 census recorded that 86 percent of Britain was white while 14 percent were from more diverse ethnic backgrounds.

A palace source said the Queen's household recognized that "we can do better" and has "committed to doing better" by setting the 10 percent target for next year.

However, the palace has been in a state of financial crisis, tasked with plugging multi-million-pound holes in funding generated by loss of revenue due to the pandemic.

A recruitment freeze imposed last year is still in place and the prognosis for next year appears to be worse not better than expected for some areas of the household.

Courtiers are also planning the Queen's 2022 platinum jubilee celebrations, marking 70 years on the throne, creating greater financial pressure.

All that could make it tough to bring in new employees to tilt the balance between white and ethnically diverse staff using only "business critical" vacancies.

Previous news reports suggested the royals were considering hiring a "diversity tsar" to oversee the progress.

Palace officials suggested no concrete plans for an appointment had been made but said they would "keep an open mind."

There were also questions over whether the palace's senior leadership team was as representative as the wider household.

Reporting data for gender is far more detailed than the single number released in relation to race and paints a mixed picture.

Across all royal staff paid public money, data for full-time equivalent employees records 279 men and 277 women.

However, in senior posts there were 25 men and just nine women, with the influential Lord Chamberlain's Committee made up of ten men and two women.

Five members of the committee, with pay packets ranging between £100,000 and £220,000 ($140,000 to $310,000) a year, are named in the report and are all white men.

No ethnicity statistics were published in relation to senior positions.

The report stated: "Employee articles have been published on the intranet covering topics such as Lockdown experiences, Pride, Ramadan and Black History Month.

"The Household recognized National Inclusion Week, with each day focussing on a different theme."

It added: "Revised diversity targets will be proposed and the Diversity and
Inclusion action plan will be enhanced.

"The role of leadership in building an inclusive culture is critical, with leaders focussing particularly on setting the tone, providing visible advocacy for inclusion and ensuring representation of diverse talent."

Last year, royal accountants had to find $14.3 million of savings in order to fill budget gaps but even as Britain starts to reopen there could be more financial pain on the way.

Stevens, keeper of the privy purse, told journalists: "As we said we would, we tightened our belts, we cut costs across all areas and managed to deliver savings to cover this anticipated reduction in supplementary income.

"These cost reductions did not involve job losses but did come from all areas including the pay and recruitment freeze we spoke about, general reductions in the areas of travel, housekeeping and IT and a reduction in some property backlog maintenance."

Royal funding from the U.K. government is topped up by cash brought in by The Royal Collection Trust, which manages the Queen's art collection, and expectations were that this extra money would drop by £15 million over three years.

However, Stevens said: "We now expect the reduction in income from The Royal Collection Trust alone to be in the region of £18 million over the same period."

Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth II
Meghan Markle visits the University of Johannesburg on October 1, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Queen Elizabeth II at day 5 of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 19, 2021 in Ascot, England. Tim Rooke - Pool and Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images