Equal Opportunities Commission says fundamental cultural shift is key to employment opportunities for ethnic minorities

A fundamental cultural shift in the way black and Asian women are treated at work and by public policy makers is needed to increase their employment opportunities, according to a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

Moving on Up: Ethnic Minority Women at Work, a two-year study of the issues, has established that Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean women face significantly greater penalties than white women in the workplace.

Those who want to work are finding it more difficult to get jobs, progress within them and are more likely to be segregated into certain types of work, despite leaving school with the same career aspirations as white girls and similar or better qualifications than white boys.

In areas with above-average numbers of black and Asian women participating in the local labour market, women are entirely absent from a third of workplaces and under-represented in almost three out of five workplaces.

However, the EOC’s report found 28% of employers surveyed said they intended to introduce steps to improve the recruitment and progression of black and Asian women. However, the same percentage said they were unsure what action to take.

Between 2001 and 2020, ethnic minorities are expected to account for more than 70% of the growth in the UK population aged between 16 and 59, according to the report.

With UK employers facing skills shortages, the report concludes it is crucial to tap into a growing and increasingly well-qualified pool of young Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean women’s talent to maintain economic growth.

Jenny Watson, chair of the EOC said: “Young Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean women are ambitious and equipped for work. But they are still suffering even greater penalties at work than white women. Time after time women told us about the ‘unwritten rules’ in their workplace, the hidden barriers that prevent them from realising these ambitions. Without tackling these unwritten rules, change will never come.”

John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “Employers will welcome the examples of good practice highlighted by the EOC’s investigation, on which others can draw. As the report says, employers are keen to employ more women from ethnic minorities, but better guidance is needed to support them.

“The EOC’s call for better careers advice is also to be welcomed Ð this is something the CBI has repeatedly pressed government on.”

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