New research on workplace racism has found that women of color “hide their identity” to fit in at work.
Women are changing their names, hairstyles and clothes to fit in at work, according to a study that found three-quarters have experienced racism.
Institutional racism is common across all sectors and across all types of organisations, according to gender equality charity the Fawcett Society and racial equality think tank the Runnymede Trust.
The report, Broken Ladders, is based on a survey of 2,000 women of color in UK workplaces, which the groups say is the largest representative survey of women of color to date.
Their report found that 61% of women of color said they changed their language, the topics they discuss, their hair, the food they eat, or their name by “a lot” or “enough” to fit in at work. – compared to 44% of white women.
Black African women were the most likely to make changes, such as their clothes (54%), their language (50%), the topics they discuss (46%), their hairstyle (39%) and their accent ( 29%).
He found that workplaces “are a constant negotiation between identities and the inability to progress,” and that women of color face barriers “at every stage,” from entering the workplace to leaving. assumption of management duties.
Three-quarters said they had experienced racism at work, while more than a quarter (27%) had experienced racial slurs.
Jemima Olchawksi, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said the results were “sickening”, adding: “We just cannot accept this as a society”.
She said: ‘As well as being held back at work, women of color are forced to hide their identities in workplaces across the UK; things like changing their hairstyle or what they eat, just to try to conform.
“What a waste of time and energy for these women – we need workplaces that respect and celebrate everyone’s individuality and allow women to focus on bringing their talents to the workforce.
“Given the skills and labor shortages, this is a waste of potential that we cannot afford.”
Half of women of Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent and 48% of women of Black African descent said they had been criticized for behaviors that other colleagues got away with at work, compared with 29% of white British women.
Some 39% of women of color said their wellbeing had been impacted by a lack of progression, compared to 28% of white women.
Women of Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent (37%) and Indian descent (32%) were the most likely to say a manager had blocked their progress at work, compared to 20% of white British women.
Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, said women of color face a “double jeopardy”.
She said: “From school to the workplace, there are structural barriers between them and the opportunities they deserve.
“Our landmark research exists to help these women thrive in the workplace and to inspire employers to harness the talents, skills and experiences of their employees, or risk losing them.”
The groups are calling on the government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for employers with 50 or more employees.
It should also legislate to prohibit employers from asking about salary history and require salaries to be published on job postings, they say.
And they called on employers to implement anti-racism action plans with clear goals that are regularly assessed, and to undertake regular ‘maintenance interviews’ (an alternative to exit interviews), giving women color the opportunity to give their opinion.
Eugenia Migliori, Senior Employment and Inclusion Policy Advisor for the Confederation of British Industry, said: “These data show that there is still some way to go to address racial and ethnic equality in the workplace. society.
“Companies must do all they can to create an inclusive workplace that allows everyone to give their all at work without fear of discrimination.
“More diverse companies perform better, which is why the CBI encourages all companies to sign up to the Change the Race Ratio campaign, which calls for clear targets for greater ethnic diversity at board level. and senior management.”
A government spokesperson said: ‘The government takes the issue of racism very seriously and believes that all workplaces should be safe environments allowing people from all walks of life to work together and thrive, without discrimination. .
“That’s why we recently announced our Inclusive Britain Action Plan, which sets out plans to build a fairer and more inclusive society, including by promoting fairness in the workplace and taking measures to tackle the ethnic pay gap.”