Women of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Caribbean descent are doing well in schools but are still being discriminated against in the workplace.
A report by from the Equal Opportunities Commission found that while up to 89% of 16-year-olds of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Caribbean intended to work full-time, they were up to four times more likely to be jobless.
The three groups were chosen by the EOC as those who faced the most discrimination, despite having the same aspirations as white girls to combine work and family life.
Of 1,000 women under 35 questioned, one in five of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin – of whom 90% were Muslim – said they had experienced negative attitudes to religious clothing at work.
And one in six Pakistani and one in eight Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean women under 35 said they were “often” asked at job interviews about their plans for marriage and children.
The research, into 16-year-olds, found half of black Caribbean girls and two-thirds of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis felt there were certain jobs they could not apply for because of their ethnic background or gender.
Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “The bad news is that not enough employers are tapping into this pool of talent – despite demographic predictions that suggest Bangladeshi, black Caribbean and Pakistani women will make up a significant proportion of the workforce of the future.
“Many of these young women are telling us they have to deal with racism, sexism and negative stereotypes,” she said.
However, Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, said: “The CBI simply does not believe that well qualified young ethnic minority girls are being discriminated against by employers. On the contrary – employers want their talents.
“But, as the EOC report recognises, they need better careers advice and work experience which shows the full range of opportunities open to them. At present too many restrict themselves by only going for jobs or careers where they can see women from a similar background already present.
“Employers report that they receive too few applications from women and ethnic minority groups, and they recognise that they need to take positive steps to attract these young girls.”