A new report has been published which highlights the racism that ethnic minority women face across different sectors and levels of seniority.

The report

The Runnymede Trust has partnered with the Fawcett Society to publish a report on women’s experiences in the workplace. More than 3,000 women from ethnic minority backgrounds were surveyed for the report. The women were asked about their experiences at work, and the results confirm that women of colour face racism at work regardless of their sector or level of seniority.

The report reveals that 75% of the women surveyed for the report experienced one of more forms of racism at work. Of those, 45% reported that this affected their desire to remain in their role either “a great deal” or “quite a bit”. The experiences that were reported ranged from “banter” about ethnicity or culture, to micro-aggressions such as repeatedly mispronouncing names and extended to extreme racial slurs.

The report also covers other topics, such as fitting in at work. When joining a new workplace, some employees feel that it is necessary to make changes in order to fit in with their new colleagues. The report shows that 44% of white women have made changes to themselves to fit in at work. In contrast, 61% of ethnic minority women have made such changes in an effort to fit in at their place of work. These changes include altering the language they used, their hairstyle, or even their name.

When considering progression at work, 28% of the women surveyed for the report said that they had experienced a manager blocking their progression at work, compared to 18% of white women.

What does the report mean for employers?

The report provides a stark insight into the challenges that ethnic minority women face in the workplace, at all levels of responsibility. It highlights how micro-aggressions are displayed in the workplace, and how these can affect an employee’s job satisfaction and wellbeing. In addition, the report demonstrates the barriers that women of colour face in the world of work and career progression.

The report makes a number of recommendations for employers and sets out both how employers can minimise racial bias in both recruitment and progression, and how they can support women of colour in their career development. It suggests that addressing racial bias during the recruitment stage, should provide benefits that filter down and continue through the organisation as employees progress through their career. Employers can help to address racial bias by making job adverts more inclusive, and making the hiring process more transparent by removing names and questions regarding personal characteristics from applications. This would help employers to consider all candidates equally, without being influenced by any pre-existing, unconscious bias they may have.

Once candidates have been on-boarded, employers can implement measures to support both women of colour and those who manage them. It is recommended that line managers are offered training on how to conduct supportive appraisals and improve their ability to talk about race. Employers should also ensure that women of colour have equal access to both mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, and that progression routes are explicit and well known. This should avoid scenarios where promotions are based on word of mouth and informal networks.

The report highlights how it is essential for employers to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination and harassment in order to address racism in the workplace. The Fawcett Society and the Runneymede Trust encourage employers to address racism in their workplace cultures, and to monitor it moving forwards. Employers can also promote equality by producing an ethnicity pay gap report alongside their gender pay gap report, something which has been encouraged previously. Employers are also advised to develop an Anti-Racism Action Plan, which sets out clear targets and how the employer will hold itself accountable. Such plans should also include a clear and transparent process for reporting racism, as well as a process for reporting incidents to someone other than their line manager. By implementing a clear process for reporting, employees are more likely to have confidence in their employer, and feel able to speak up about their experiences knowing that action will be taken. The objective of these recommended changes is to enable employers to create a safer and more inclusive working environment for all employees.