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  • Writer's pictureBaljit Kaur

The Runnymede Trust and Fawcett Society Report on Women of Colour in the Workplace

A recent report published by the Runnymede Trust and the Fawcett Society sheds light on the workplace experiences of over 3,000 women of colour. The key findings are both revealing and troubling:

  • 75% of women of colour reported experiencing one or more forms of racism at work.

  • 61% of women of colour (compared to 44% of white women) felt compelled to change something about themselves to fit in.

  • Women of colour are more likely than white women to report that a manager has blocked their career progression (28% compared to 19%).

  • 76% of women of colour reported that racism in the workplace has impacted their mental health.

These findings highlight the illusion of meritocracy in the workplace and underscore the urgent need for change. Employers are urged to:

  • Minimise bias in recruitment by making job advertisements more inclusive and ensuring a transparent, unbiased recruitment process.

  • Ensure fair and consistent application of career progression structures.

  • Provide mentorship, training, and development opportunities specifically for women of colour.

  • Address and monitor racism within the organisation proactively.

Intersectional Challenges and Pay Gaps

It's crucial to understand that women of colour face compounded challenges in the workplace. They often encounter assumptions about their qualifications, which results in hitting double-glazed and concrete ceilings that are nearly impossible to shatter. Reviewing policies and structures through an intersectional lens is essential to fostering true equality.

The gender pay gap also affects women of colour differently. When addressing the ethnicity pay gap, it's important to recognise the double penalty faced by women of colour. An intersectional approach to pay equality can help advance both agendas and address the specific challenges these women face.

Risk-Taking and Career Progression for Black Women

A study focusing on women in fields such as politics, science, and technology, including prominent Black female figures like Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey, revealed that Black women are more likely to take risks early in their careers. This risk-taking behaviour helps them diversify their careers and gain experience across multiple sectors, unlike their white counterparts who tend to take fewer risks.

However, as careers progress, white women tend to reduce their risk-taking, while Black women increase theirs to combat career stagnation. This highlights the need for organisations to recognise and address the unique challenges faced by minority female leaders. Rather than taking an ad-hoc approach, companies should implement comprehensive strategies to create positive leadership experiences for all employees.

The study emphasises that minority leaders face higher barriers to success due to the necessity of risk-taking. By resolving systemic issues and improving the work environment, organisations can reduce these barriers, enabling more minority leaders to emerge and thrive.

Strategies for Reducing Barriers and Enhancing Support

Key recommendations include:

  • Providing targeted support for women in male-dominated fields, such as front office income-generating roles, and areas with a perceived glass ceiling, like communications and compliance.

  • Implementing strategic initiatives to retain talent at vulnerable career points, particularly focusing on the "Missing Middle."

By focusing on these strategies, organisations can create an environment where all women, especially those from minority backgrounds, can thrive and progress in their careers.

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