Friday 18 November 2016 1:00 am

The CBI has been accused of "hypocrisy" over staff diversity by a centre-right think tank

A blazing row has broken out over diversity in business after think tank Policy Exchange branded the CBI “hypocritical” for its failure to employ a single non-white director.

The think tank, which was credited with many of the central themes behind David Cameron's premiership, blasted the business group as part of a new report into opportunities for ethnic minorities at the top of enterprise.

The new research from Policy Exchange found that just 1.5 per cent of FTSE 100 directors, or 17 people, are British-born non-whites, while there is not a single non-white chief executive in London or eight other “core cities”.

Read More: The FCA is going public with its diversity targets

And while the wonks hailed efforts from the likes of the Institute of Directors and the CBI to improve diversity, it singled out the latter business lobby for failing to set an example.

“We were surprised that not one member of their national leadership team are non-white given that they are talking such a big game on it,” a Policy Exchange spokesman told City A.M.

“The CBI are supposed to be representing 200,000 businesses, so they more than anyone should have their feet held to the fire on this.”

A CBI spokeswoman responded that the business representative is “completely committed” to promoting diversity.

“More than a quarter of all new CBI appointments in the last six months were from a [Black and Minority Ethnic] background, half were female and over a third of our leadership team is comprised of women, demonstrating that our wider focus to attract talent from all backgrounds is working,” they added.

And one insider went further, noting that the only people featured on Policy Exchange's own website homepage are white males.

Read More: There'll be no more all-white FTSE 100 boards by 2021

Despite the ire, Policy Exchange also noted rapid progress in the diversity of businesses, with more people from ethnic minorities in top managerial jobs than white people.

10 per cent of partners in law firms are non-white, up from 6 per cent in 2006.

Report author and former Downing Street adviser Shamit Saggar said: “It is clear from our research that people from a minority background are progressing in nearly every walk of life. This is down to hard work, drive and a determination to succeed, a clear trait among many minority communities.

“The minority talent is evidently coming through but there are still ‘snowy white peaks' at the very top of business and in our public institutions.”