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'British workplace still not equal for black professionals'

BLACK EMPLOYEES are more ambitious than their white counterparts despite only half of all ethnic minority staff feeling valued, a landmark workplace study has found.

The findings of the Race at Work survey, published on Tuesday (Nov 10), revealed that 72 per cent of black workers wanted to progress, compared with Asian (63 per cent) and white (41 per cent).

And nearly two thirds of BAME (Black, Asian and ethnic minority) employees said they enjoyed working for their organisation.

This comes despite racial harassment and bullying in the workplace reportedly being on the rise.
Thirty per cent of employees in the UK have witnessed or experienced racial harassment in the workplace in the last year alone, an increase from previous years.

Only 29 per cent of black employees feel they are valued members of their team, compared to 71 per cent of white employees.

The research forms one of the biggest ever surveys on race in the workplace and was conducted in partnership with a YouGov poll and an open questionnaire. Despite a target of 10,000 respondents, the project – devised by employment charity Business in the Community – attracted 24,457 responses. Approximately 7,000 respondents were BAME and were representative of areas across the country not just cities like London.

Sandra Kerr OBE, race equality director at Business in the Community, said it was clear “that ethnic minorities’ experiences of work are still not equal to their white peers.”

“Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of the workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise,” she added.

She told The Voice that the findings would lay to rest any debate about the challenges allowing organisations to move forward to an action plan.


She said: “The reason I wanted to partner with YouGov and a research organisation and have that statistically valid sample with a robust enough size was so we can get past the arguing and questions of ‘is there an issue?’ Let’s move past that and now say there is evidence, let’s action plan this.”

Alongside the report’s findings, the organisation has made a number of recommendations including a call for government to add the word ‘race’ to the UK Corporate Governance Code’s definition of diversity.

The report also found that UK workplaces are less comfortable talking about race than they are about age and gender.

Kerr continued: “Race is a material difference just like gender, and the governance code informs how the FTSE and all the boards in the UK govern their organisations but also how they’re progressing people into senior roles. We believe by focusing attention, it means you have to report it [race], think about it and helps to concentrate minds and put the issue permanently on their radar.”

The diversity leaders said she was optimistic that it would be included come 2016.

“I am expecting it to be there, but I just want to make sure that any bit of support we have we will use to ensure it goes in. I don’t want to leave it to chance. My principle is, let’s action plan for the future we want. This research builds a body of evidence showing exactly why we need to actions like that.”

Welcoming the report, Richard Iferenta of global consultancy KPMG, said: “All employers share the responsibility to make opportunity the norm for future generations – KPMG celebrates every organisation engaged in improving the landscape for BAME colleagues today.”

One of the report’s key findings was that there was a huge demand for role models.

Only one in 16 senior leaders are from an ethnic minority background, despite making representing one in eight in the workplace and one in four of all primary school pupils.

“But where are the role models for that one in four?” quizzed Kerr.

“It looks like mentoring is starting to happen and now we’re calling for more sponsors – these are people who talk about opportunities in those rooms you’re not in. We need them to bring in the names of BAME people when discussing projects, training or secondments.”

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