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Race To Progress: Breaking Down Barriers

Posted: Wednesday 22 June 11, 10.08am GMT

BAME employees feel forced to leave their jobs in order to progress.

Glass ceilings are forcing UK employees from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to leave their current jobs in order to progress, according to a report released today by Race for Opportunity, Business in the Community’s race diversity campaign. ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ surveyed 1,557 full-time employees from eight ethnic groups within the UK, including white Britons*. The report investigates the levels of ambition among British workers from a BAME background and reveals the barriers preventing them from achieving those ambitions.

The report reveals that nearly a fifth of BAME employees have never been promoted, and on average receive far fewer promotions than their white counterparts. In contrast, white British employees having the lowest levels of ambition yet are being promoted at a far greater rate. There is, however, no ceiling to the ambition of ethnic minority workers in the UK with the majority aspiring to lead an organisation.

What is clear from the report is that levels of ambition vary between the different ethnic groups. ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ found that African, Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani employees were the most ambitious, with African and Indian employees consistently topping the ambition scales.

This high level of ambition within the BAME workforce is matched in confidence, with seven out of ten ethnic minority employees certain about their next career move. Despite this confidence, nearly half of BAME employees feel that they have to leave their current employer in order to progress. In stark contrast, only less than a third of white British workers felt that they had to do the same. This has to be a serious concern for businesses that are failing to engage, retain and progress their employees on an equal basis.

Race for Opportunity also asked what the perceived barriers were to realising these ambitions. Nearly 60% of Pakistani, 55% of African and half of Chinese employees do not feel they are supported by their line manager. Additionally, there is inadequate provision for training, with ethnic minority respondents saying they had been on fewer than two training schemes in the last year. Worryingly, almost a third of Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani workers said they had not been on a training course at all in the last year, compared with white British workers who said they had been on more than two.

Sandra Kerr, national director of Race for Opportunity, says of the latest report: “It is blindingly obvious that organisations are not providing BAME employees with adequate support at both line and senior management levels and training. Being equipped to do their job to the best of their ability is the basic right of any employee in order to feel valued in their employment and be able to work towards achieving their career ambitions. We asked employees from all backgrounds what they wanted from their employer and they responded with three simple demands – feeling valued, proper pay and adequate training. In all cases it is hard to understand why employers have failed to deliver on these fronts.”

The report highlights that this is not simply an issue limited to employers, but is also highly prevalent in the recruitment industry. For the great number of BAME individuals looking for a new job to further their careers, only a small minority feel that recruitment agents treat people from their ethnic background fairly when putting them forward for roles. Shockingly, 73% of Bangladeshi and 72% of Caribbean employees and more than two thirds of Pakistani respondents said that they had been treated unfairly when using a recruitment agency.

Race for Opportunity has three simple recommendations for employers to ensure that every individual in their employment is assessed on merit, not race:

1. Establish a system of mentoring and sponsorship: Urge those who currently hold leadership positions to take a more active role:

  • More than a third of workers want a mentor, but do not have access to one. Race for Opportunity believes the RfO Board Mentoring Circles approach offers a good practice role model for organisations seeking to introduce mentoring schemes in the workplace
  • An ‘active’ sponsor can introduce individuals to different networks and actively promote the individual’s skills and talents within their sphere of influence to open doors and facilitate progression

2. Meet the three basic demands of feeling valued, proper pay and adequate training. Race for Opportunity has developed a ‘Bridging the Value Gap’ toolkit with simple steps for senior leaders, line managers and individual employees to adopt in order to bring about a culture of value and respect throughout a businesses’ hierarchy.

3. Engage with the recruitment industry head on. Regardless of whether these attitudes are conscious or unconscious, every individual must be assessed on merit, not race. All employers should review their own internal recruitment and promotion processes for transparency and fairness

Sandra Kerr concludes: “Our Breaking Down Barriers report reveals a BAME workforce that is highly ambitious, has their career targets mapped out, yet is still meeting significant roadblocks at every turn, preventing them from progressing at a reasonable rate. The government, employers and the recruitment industry must redouble their efforts to ensure that support, reward and training are equally available to all employees. This is the only way to ensure that the country enjoys genuine equality in its workforce.”

For additional information or for a full copy of the report please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at Speed or call 020 7842 3243/3270.

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