Ethnic minority women face a ‘gaping chasm’ between themselves and their white counterparts, according to research.
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said many Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black-Caribbean women under 35 have higher levels of education and training than white women but are four times more likely than white women to take a job at a lower level than the one they are qualified for.
The EOC’s research found ethnic minority women were three times more likely to be asked at job interviews about their plans for marriage and children.
One in five Pakistani and Bangladeshi women said they had experienced negative attitudes towards religious dress at work.
The EOC said it did not know why this was the case but is launching a year-long investigation into the issue.
A spokeswoman could not confirm whether the gap in prospects was indicative of racism in British business.
Jenny Watson, acting chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “Britain’s businesses are missing out on a pool of talent that could help them stay competitive.
“As well as the benefits to the economy and to individuals, Britain’s workplaces are where people from different cultures and faiths interact, giving them an important role in the building of cohesive communities,” she said.
Trevor Philips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the impact of race on people’s life chances was not reducing with time.
“The situation for Pakistani and Bangladeshi men is echoed by the experiences of women graduates from these groups who are up to five times more likely to be unemployed than white women,” he said.