Institutional Prejudice Common In UK Workforce

Questions employees are scared to ask

There are many great benefits to having increased diversity in the workplace as diverse employees can result in new ways of thinking that can in turn have positive effects on business. Having a diverse workforce means employing people from a range of educational, social, racial, religious and sexual backgrounds.

This large range of backgrounds results in employers gaining a diverse way to deal with clients, allowing them to reach a broader client base than before. But while having a diverse workforce is important, what is even more important is to ensure that employees feel comfortable and happy while at work.

For ethnic minority leaders in the UK, this is unfortunately not the case. A new report from Green Park, Changing the Face of Tomorrow’s Leaders: Increasing Ethnic Minority Representation in Leadership, saw 67 associate companies in the DRIVE network, 650 associates in the BAME Board Network and 3,957 associates in the Greek Park Business Network surveyed.

One of the most important things to note from this survey is that 82% of those surveyed felt that there was institutional prejudice in the UK workforce against ethnic minorities. A further 78% also felt that their organisation has no accountable targets for minority ethnic leadership representation, showing that ethnic minority leaders do not feel confident in their organisations in the UK.

Racial Discrimination An Issue

The UK has legislation in place that protects minorities in the workplace from discrimination with the Equality Act 2010. This act protects workers from discrimination based on their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Despite this legislation however almost two thirds of those surveyed (60%) had either experienced or witnessed racial discrimination in the work. One in eight (80%) believed that ethnic minorities are subjected to prejudice as well, showing that this is prevalent behaviour despite legal attempts to prevent this.

For ethnic minorities who seek senior positions, the news is not positive. A report into the Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards by Sir John Parker in November 2016 found that despite ethnic minorities constituting 14% of the UK population, directors of colour only represented 8% of the total. Out of the 100 companies on the FTSE 100, 53 were found to have no directors of colour. Out of these, seven companies actually accounted for 40% of the directors of colour.

Some slightly positive news however is that respondents to Green Park’s survey feel cautiously optimistic that institutional racism is slowly moving up the organisational agenda recently. Only 20% answered yes to this, but a further 40% answered yes but felt in particular that the language was emotive and made people feel uncomfortable.

What Can Be Done To Change This?

The report also gave some useful suggestions for organisations that are seeking to reduce the amount of institutional prejudice that ethnic minorities face, as well as opening up opportunities for leadership positions.

Some key recommendations are to ensure that change is led from the top. This means that the CEO should be actively involved in encouraging diversity and not simply leaving it to HR departments to resolve. As well as this, supply chains should be optimised to ensure that organisations are working with suppliers who have credibility with diverse candidates.

Instead of simply hoping for diverse candidates to apply for jobs, actively seek them out and create talent pipelines that are easy to access. Creating programmes that are specifically designed to both engage and progress with talent can help to ensure that representation is maintained proportionally.

One of the most important things to do is to ensure that organisations are open to talking about issues for race, as well as for other minorities. This means that a company must be open to being accountable to issues by being transparent and open about their commitments and decisions. It should also mean that organisations should deliver on promises that are made to combat institutional prejudice.

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Sarah Jubb

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