Fix the racial inclusion barriers for ethnic minority women, says new study

Ethnic minority women feel their ethnicity stalls belonging and career progression

A new partnership between two social impact organisations and their subsequent report should remind employers not to exclude women of colour in their gender equity initiatives.

Flair, a firm that helps businesses and schools measure and build anti-racist cultures through a people analytics tool, has partnered with free coding course provider Code First Girls to understand better-lived experiences of racism and barriers at work.

Using its technology, Flair has surveyed around 1,000 members of the Code First Girls community to understand their experiences of racism and other barriers to workplace equity. The result is their Race & Gender in the Workplace report.

One of their top-line findings is that women from ethnic minority backgrounds face significantly higher racial inclusion barriers than white British women, which is the case across all industries, with ethnic minority women having an average racial inclusion barrier score of 2.4 compared to 0.8 for white British women.

When broken down into racial groups within this cohort of ethnic minority women, it’s Asian women who face the highest racial inclusion barriers, with an average score of 3.1, closely followed by Black women who have an average score of 3.0. This is in contrast to white women who have an average score of 1.0.

However, the study did reveal that the tech sector was slightly more inclusive for women of colour. In fact, women from ethnic minority backgrounds have an average racial inclusion barrier score of 2.3 compared to an average score of 1.3 for White British women.

Ethnic minority women are also more likely to experience a lack of belonging, authenticity, and psychological safety in the workplace.

Across all ethnic minority women, 35% feel that their ethnicity makes it harder to be themselves at work and is cited as the most significant racial inclusion barrier faced by ethnic minority women in the workplace. For Asian women, these feelings are high, with 45% feeling that their ethnicity makes it harder to be themselves at work.

There are also concerns among ethnic minority women that their ethnic identity holds them back from promotions (29%), while 37% of Black women feel that their ethnicity makes it harder to have positive social interactions at work, and 52% have experienced microaggressions in the workplace.

Nii Cleland, Co-founder of Flair, said: “International Women’s Day celebrates the progress made toward a gender-equal world, but to forge inclusive work cultures where all women can thrive, we must also achieve equity across social factors, such as ethnicity, race and religion. Our report shows that, despite their best intentions, organisations are struggling to build cultures where women from ethnic minorities can thrive.

“The problem begins with awareness. Without having an understanding of the challenges faced by ethnic women at work, organisations risk investing heavily into solutions that fail to tackle the underlying issues. Having a racially diverse workforce isn’t enough. It is just one piece of the puzzle and does not account for the lived experiences and opportunities afforded to marginalised women. Instead of applying a ‘one size fits all’ approach, then, organisations need to think about racial equity holistically.

“This requires putting the correct tools and metrics in place to regularly track a number of key areas, including racist behaviours, attitudes, levels of racial awareness, inclusion barriers, performance, pay, and recruitment. It also involves shifting the conversation away from seeing racial equity as a purely emotional issue, which means ensuring it is tackled and reported on like every other business problem.

“By taking a data-driven approach to measuring and identifying problems, organisations are not only better placed to implement solutions that drive material change for women in the workplace, but also to tangibly report on and measure progress towards racial equity – helping them to mitigate risk and reap the rewards.”

To read the full report, please click here.

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