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Ethnic minority women among UK's 'most disadvantaged' public sector workers

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If you are a woman from an ethnic minority, aged over 45 and working in the public sector, you are among the UK’s most disadvantaged workers.

That's according to a new report from Henley Business School, which explores the state of racial equity in UK businesses. 

Specifically, it looks at whether employees from ethnic minorities are being treated fairly and with respect in UK workplaces, whether people from these communities can bring their true authentic selves to work, and most poignantly, whether the fundamental issue of racial discrimination in UK workplaces still exists.

It found that while young ethnic minority males (aged 18-44 years) think inroads have been made, there is still a way to go for females aged 45 and over from ethnic minorities.

Compared to their younger male counterparts, these females don’t feel as safe speaking up at work and challenging the way things are done (39% v 74%), don’t believe they would be supported if they wanted to try a new idea (50% v 72%), are less likely to feel they can bring their true authentic self to the workplace (56% v 73%) and are less respected by the people they work with (63% v 75%).

The situation only worsens for those who work in the public sector. Public sector employees are more than twice as likely to have reported discrimination in the workplace compared to their private sector counterparts (58% v 25%), and public sector employees from ethnic minority backgrounds feel less confident to speak up and challenge seniors, leaders and colleagues than private sector workers (60% v 71%).

Read more:Why can too much positivity be toxic in the workplace?

“A lot of research into race focuses on the experiences of ethnic minorities as a whole, failing to cross-reference with other personal characteristics such as gender and age. Our research reveals that the sub-group of ethnic minority women face a triple assault of racism, sexism and ageism, and therefore suffer the most discrimination in the workplace," said Naeema Pasha, director of equity, diversity and inclusion at Henley Business School. 

"Our report shows that racism is experienced much more in the public sector than the private sector, despite public sector organisations often having the most strongly worded diversity campaigns. This means the messages in the strategy are not coming through the organisation as an experience."

Pashna said that business leaders need to keep in mind that talent, skills and engagement drives productivity – which in turn drives revenue. 

"To innovate and deliver on EDI, we must look at the bigger picture and intersectionality, not view diversity groups in silos," she said. 

Read more: Should you have a 'work persona' or be authentic in the workplace?

"There are some very clear steps businesses can take which we have penned in ‘The Equity Effect’. Examples include implementing a race strategy – even a loose one to start with, and having training sessions from the point of induction, rather than sporadically throughout a person’s development.”

Watch: How a recent uni graduate co-founded a ground breaking review into D&I

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