Two-thirds of ethnic minorities in the UK face discrimination

The workplace is still not an inclusive place for ethnic minorities who experience discrimination

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of people from an ethnic minority background in the UK experience discrimination. This was the finding of recent research by Opinium and reboot, a voluntary campaign group that seeks to promote greater ethnic diversity in the workplace.

While the number of people experiencing discrimination has fallen from 73% in 2020, the majority have still experienced prejudice. People of African, mixed-race and Caribbean origin are the most likely to say they have been discriminated against (67%, 69% and 84%, respectively). Two in five (42%) also said they had experienced abuse, compared to 52% in 2020.

Experiences in the workplace

When it comes to the workplace, the study found that almost half (46%) of respondents believe that they are less likely to reach the position of CEO in a large company than other ethnic groups. 

This proportion rises to 63% among Black respondents. In contrast, only 12% of white respondents reported similar feelings. These statistics represent significant barriers to achieving true diversity in the upper echelons of private and public companies.

Only 43% of ethnic minorities think that their workplace does enough to ensure diversity in the senior management team, while over a third (36%) say that the senior management team in their workplace is less diverse than the team. 

More role models

Ethnic minorities naturally want to have role models in the workplace who look like them. Four out of five (80%) say it is important to see people of their ethnicity in management positions. Furthermore, seven in ten (72%) say that seeing someone like themselves in a leadership position makes them feel like they can achieve that position one day.

It is also telling that when asked whether companies should publish data on the ethnic diversity of their workforce, only two in five white Britons (43%) agree, compared to 69% of ethnic minority respondents. 

Less than half (45%) of white respondents thought their company should publish a diversity policy, compared to 73% of ethnic minority respondents, showing how white and ethnic minority professionals view multiculturalism differently.

BLM impact 

At the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the focus was on what employers could and should do to tackle structural and systemic forms of racism. Two years on, just under half (47%) of ethnic minority workers say their employer has taken action on racism and ethnic diversity in the last year. This is a slight increase from the 40% who said their employer had taken action immediately after the 2020 attack.

Three in ten (27%) ethnic minority workers say their employer has launched new diversity and inclusion initiatives, while just under a fifth say their employer has issued an internal statement of support for anti-racism or reviewed internal diversity and inclusion structures and policies (17% each). 

Another one in six (15%) say their employer has shared a list of educational resources on anti-racism, and just over one in ten (12%) say their employer has issued a statement of external support.

However, just over half (53%) of ethnic minorities believe that companies have made a genuine effort to focus on diversity and inclusion in the past year.

Kiddie immigrants

The Multicultural Britain Study also looked at the experiences of children of immigrants, who make up around 30% of the UK’s ethnic minority population. 

Almost three-quarters (73%) of kiddie immigrants believe that racist discrimination is common in the UK, compared to 60% of foreign-born people. Regarding work, just over half (51%) of kiddie immigrants think that people from their ethnic group are less likely to become CEOs of large companies than other groups.

Views on discrimination

Despite some awareness and good intentions on the part of companies, seven in ten (70%) people from ethnic minorities think that racist beliefs are widespread in society but do not talk about them openly (compared to 77% in 2020). Significantly fewer (57 %) British people who identify as white feel the same way.

Similarly, two-thirds (66%) of ethnic minorities think that racist discrimination is common in the UK, compared to 56% of white Britons.

In terms of the forms that discrimination takes in everyday life, the most common behaviours identified by people from ethnic minorities were: someone making a racist comment but passing it off as a joke (45%); someone making racist comments (39%); seeing something racist on social media (36%); someone making negative comments about immigration (36%), seeing strangers shun someone because of their race or dress (32%).

Priya Minhas, the lead researcher for the Multicultural Britain series at Opinium, commented: “It is interesting that this year many of our tracking questions have shown a drop in the number of people from ethnic minorities reporting discrimination or abuse.

“Although these figures are still too high to be seen as positive, a change in the right direction is a good thing. What is difficult to say at this stage is whether we are beginning to see a shift in attitudes in the right direction or whether the change this year is due to the fact that restrictions related to the pandemic have led to a reduction in social interactions between people, and therefore a reduction in the likelihood of experiencing face-to-face discrimination.”

“It will be important to see whether this trend continues in 2023 and beyond, or whether a return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic also means a return to the kind of discouraging numbers we saw from 2018 to 2020.”

Noreen Biddle Shah, founder of reboot and head of communications at Numis, said: “Race and ethnicity have certainly moved to the forefront of corporate concerns in the last two years, but there is still a way to go before we see parity in numbers. Ethnic minorities place a high value on role models. Seeing people from their own ethnic background in senior positions makes them feel they can reach the top of the corporate ladder, but less than half think their workplace does enough to ensure diversity in the management team.”

“Beyond the moral argument, reflecting Britain’s multiculturalism is fast becoming a reputation imperative for companies thanks to increased shareholder and employee activism on social impact. And let’s not forget that for companies, this also represents a huge business opportunity.”

In this article, you have learned that: 

  • Almost half (46%) of ethnic minorities feel they have less chance of becoming a CEO of a large company, compared to 12% of people from a white background.
  • Although the number of ethnic minorities experiencing discrimination has decreased over the past two years, the majority still suffer from discrimination.
  • Seven out of ten (70%) ethnic minority people think racist beliefs are widespread in society but are not openly discussed.
  • Over half (53%) of ethnic minorities think that companies have made a genuine effort to focus on diversity and inclusion in the past year.

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