In a groundbreaking report by McKinsey, the experiences and challenges of Black, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani (BBP) women in the UK workplace have been brought to the forefront.
The report, titled “Race in the UK Workplace: The Intersectional Experience,” dives deep into the unique struggles faced by this specific group, emphasising the need for targeted actions to address the disparities they encounter.
While the research offers hopeful signs for younger, more junior BBP women, it reveals a concerning phenomenon known as the ‘frozen middle’ effect for older groups between the ages of 26 and 55.
Tackling these challenges head-on not only holds the potential to significantly boost UK businesses but also positively impacts the quality of life for BBP women and their communities, as previous McKinsey research has shown the correlation between diversity and financial outperformance.
Despite progress in championing racial equity and supporting the advancement of diverse workers, achieving workplace equity remains challenging. The report highlights the need to address the specific needs of intersectional communities like BBP women, as their progress in pay and labour force participation lags behind other groups.
For instance, in 2019, BBP individuals earned 15% to 16% less than White British workers, while Indian and Chinese workers earned more than their White counterparts.
Further analysis by McKinsey reveals the difficulty in simultaneously achieving gender and ethnic diversity within UK companies. While 80 UK organisations have higher-than-average female or ethnic-minority representation in executive teams, only half have achieved high ethnic-minority representation. This struggle becomes particularly pronounced for BBP women, who face the greatest disadvantage in workplace equality compared to other ethnicity and gender combinations.
Targeted actions for progress
The report emphasises the urgent need to address the challenges faced by BBP women in the workforce, offering five tactical actions for UK employers to consider making progress on racial equality and improving the experiences of BBP women.
These actions include analysing data from an intersectional lens, co-creating a meaningful definition of success, developing accountable business leaders who champion BBP women, prioritising initiatives tailored to their needs, and enforcing rigorous tracking and course correction.
The report also highlights the remarkable progress made by younger BBP women between the ages of 16 and 25. Their labour force participation has doubled in the top-paying occupations over the past decade, with Bangladeshi and Pakistani women now earning on par with White male workers in the same demographic. Factors such as the increased pursuit of further education, access to social capital, and graduate-recruiting programmes aimed at ethnic minorities contribute to their improved outlook.
Frozen middle effect
However, the gains made by younger BBP women are not mirrored in older generations. The pay gap significantly widens for BBP women aged 26 to 55, with Bangladeshi and Pakistani women in this age, range earning 27% less per hour compared to White men and Black women faring even worse, earning 36% less per hour. Factors such as concentration in lower-paying jobs, limited growth in higher-paying roles, and underrepresentation in managerial positions contribute to these disparities.
The report’s findings shed light on the pressing need for targeted actions to address the challenges faced by BBP women in the UK workforce.
By implementing the recommendations put forth by McKinsey, UK employers have an opportunity to not only bridge the pay gap and improve workplace equality but also unlock the untapped potential and talent of BBP women, leading to a more diverse and prosperous economy for all.