Two-thirds don’t speak up when seeing discrimination at work

Wates Group is calling for employees and businesses to be better allies

Just one-third of UK employees (36%) have spoken up when they have seen discrimination or exclusion of a minority colleague at work, despite almost seven in 10 (67%) considering themselves an ‘ally’ to those with identities different to their own. These are the results of new research released by Wates Group.

The survey of over 5,000 employees is one of the first studies into allyship in the UK workplace. It reveals that, while most think they support colleagues from underrepresented groups, the intent is still not translating into action when tackling discrimination.

Only one-third (37%) of respondents had taken the time to educate themselves on the experience of minorities, falling to 33% among C-level executives. At the same time, 70% admitted they had never publicly given credit for ideas to a minority colleague, and 79% had never advocated for new opportunities for those in a minority group.

National Inclusion Week

Wates, a family-owned construction, residential development, and property services business, is a key player in one of the UK’s least diverse industries. It has released the study along with a new campaign to mark National Inclusion Week, aimed at breaking down the barriers to allyship and preventing microaggressions in the workplace.

Holding its own annual Inclusion Month across September, Wates has asked all employees to make one allyship commitment and is now calling on the wider industry and business community to do the same.

Discrimination on the rise

The research found that four in 10 (40%) have experienced microaggressions related to their identity at work. This figure rises to almost six in 10 for gay, lesbian (58%) and bisexual (59%) employees and 64% for individuals from Black Caribbean backgrounds. Three in five respondents from Black African (60%) or Caribbean (59%) backgrounds have seen colleagues mispronouncing a name because it is ‘too hard’ to say, while four in 10 (42%) men from the LGBTQ+ community have witnessed someone telling a colleague that they don’t even ‘look’ gay.

People from minority communities were also more likely to report witnessing microaggressions and discrimination. Almost half of those identifying as gay, lesbian (47%) and bisexual (46%) said they had seen microaggressions and discrimination related to someone’s sexual orientation, dropping to 26% overall. Similarly, while 62% of people from the Black Caribbean and 47% from a Pakistani background had witnessed microaggressions or discrimination related to race or ethnicity, this was only 35% overall, further highlighting the need for increased education around the experiences of underrepresented groups.

Recognising that there is a long way to go to create an inclusive workplace within its business and the UK workforce more broadly, Wates has committed to creating an environment where all talent can thrive. This includes sharing data that help both itself and organisations across all sectors to take meaningful action.

Inclusive employer

Earlier this year, Wates sponsored a landmark study by the Fawcett Society, which exposed the damaging stigma around the needs of menopausal women, and in 2021 it became one of the first companies within the built environment to support flexible working.

Wates Group has been recognised as a Times Top 50 Employer for Women; was a winner of the Best for Families and Best for Fathers categories at the Working Families awards; and received the Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award at the 2022 Construction News Awards.

Nikunj Upadhyay, Inclusion and Diversity Director at Wates Group, said: “The disconnect between intent and action when it comes to tackling discrimination and microaggressions at work is worrying. We need employers across the UK to boost education and ensure that colleagues have an improved understanding of the experiences of underrepresented groups and what they can do to be effective allies.

“At Wates, we are acutely conscious that our industry doesn’t reflect the diverse make-up of the society and communities we serve. If we are to create lasting change, we need to step up efforts to challenge social norms and create cultures that support everyone, inclusive of age, race, sexuality or background. That’s why we’ve asked all employees to make one allyship commitment this National Inclusion Week and why we are encouraging the wider business community to do the same.”

Less than 15% of the UK construction workforce is represented by women, while just 3.4% of all construction managers are from ethnic minorities.

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