Overcoming racial discrimination in education and the workplace
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Within educational institutions and the workplace, racial discrimination has long been present in one shape or form, whether overtly, or hidden behind the scenes. It can often occur discreetly and may not be immediately obvious to those who fall within the racial majority.
The same principle can be applied for privileged individuals who don’t fall victim to noticeable disadvantages in the workplace. These disadvantages can be due to certain characteristics such as age, disability, gender, sex, religion, sexual orientation as well as race.
Discrimination most commonly takes place in the form of unconscious bias and can appear at every stage of an individual’s career, occurring before it even begins. This is one of the main reasons why opening up the conversation of racial discrimination and diversity in the workplace is so important when it comes to supporting young people on their career paths and individual journeys.
What we already know
According to the 2016-17 Racism at Work survey, published by the University of Manchester, over 70% of Black and Asian workers reported being racially harassed at work within the last five years. Similarly, 46% of respondents from a BAME background and 32% of non-White Other participants reported ‘verbal abuse and racist jokes’.
Overall, 60% reported being subjected to unfair treatment from their employer due to their race and 30% reported being bullied or being asked insensitive or ignorant questions due to their race.
Figures from gov.uk show that those within the Black ethnic group had the lowest rate (5%) of workers in 'manager, director or senior official' jobs’. The UK’s Annual Population Survey also showed that black people are, on average, paid less than their white counterparts. However, ‘the ethnicity pay gap between White and ethnic minority employees has narrowed to its smallest level since 2012 in England and Wales’ at 2.3%, according to the latest ONS report.
As well as these statistics, a 2019 study from the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, found that minority ethnic applicants have to send 60% more job applications to get a positive response from an employer compared to white British candidates.
Most recently, the impact of Black Lives Matter worldwide has propelled more SME’s and corporate companies to make real changes to their hiring practices and institutional policies and processes, including how they treat their employees and present themselves as a company in an attempt to improve racial discrimination and prejudice within these institutions.
However, despite these improvements, discussing BAME discrimination and how individuals are being affected by it openly and honestly is still one topic that many students, employees and employers are struggling with.
This is why we at TG Consulting are keen to help universities and employers have these conversations to ensure that those from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to equal opportunities and have the best experience possible within their careers and education.
Tonia Galati, Director & Founder of TG Consulting, says:
“At TG Consulting we have been doing lots of work around the BAME student agenda and looking to increase confidence and raise aspirations. It was really important for us to also acknowledge how some of our white students are feeling about what has been going on, what they have seen, and what they have heard, so I’m really pleased that Hal and Bethany were both comfortable in sharing their views with us.”
We asked two of our graduate/ student intern employees at TG Consulting to draw on their experiences as young white people within education and the workplace. They discuss how they feel about addressing racial discrimination within these institutions and what can be done better to promote further racial inclusion, equality and diversity within them."
Hal Colmer, a past TG Consulting Business Analytics Intern, says:
“Over the past few months, I have worked with a diverse team, regarding their ethnicity and background. Many of the conversations and interactions I have had with black team members have been completely eye-opening concerning previous negative experiences they have encountered, especially in recruitment processes and the workplace.
However, one thing that I found difficult to do was to feel 100% comfortable when discussing these issues. Often in the back of my mind, I found myself double-checking what I was about to say in case ‘it might be the wrong way to phrase it’ or ‘they will take offence because I have never been in the same position, being white’. When working on focus groups that were based around racial discrimination in the workplace, I always came away thinking that I hadn’t had to face even half the challenges those students have just because of the colour of my skin.
In truth, I have come to realise that this feeling of uncertainty when trying to be open and understanding of discrimination is a part of the overall problem. One of the main aspects of this issue that I have found most challenging is centred around the premise that; how can I ever truly understand the experience a black person has had with racial profiling whilst being a white male, and because of this, what opportunities do I have to change these situations if I cannot relate myself?
After speaking to colleagues and my manager about these experiences, I have found that, firstly, I am not the only one that has had these experiences, and secondly, it creates more disconnection and takes away the opportunity for progressive inclusion in working environments when holding yourself back in fear of offending someone else.
I hope that anyone in education or in a working environment who has had similar feelings can gain reassurance that being more open with colleagues about these issues is one of the best ways to begin breaking down social and racial barriers.”
Bethany Fraser, a TG Consulting Next Gen Consultant, says:
“Coming from a predominantly white school, I realised it was only when I joined university that I was put in a position to make friends from different ethnicities and backgrounds. This meant I was fully unaware of the struggles my classmates had been through and are still struggling with today, especially in the area of employment.
I remember one time during my first year at university, I was talking to some of my black classmates about applying for work experiences within our chosen field of work and how hesitant they became when even thinking about applying. They described feeling as if “they did not fit in” within that area and that they had a feeling of not belonging.
I found this so heart-breaking as these students have been working just as hard as I have, but because of the colour of their skin, they had fewer opportunities in that field of study than I did. Talking about this topic made me feel helpless and even ashamed to have this privilege that no race deserves over another.
Recently, I was helping out in a project which involved talking to black students about their experiences within the workplace and I was given a choice to lead one of the focus groups. Straight away I felt that I could not carry out this task due to not being able to relate or carry on a conversation on the matter, because of being white. So instead I sat behind the scenes taking notes whilst my black colleague facilitated the conversation.
Listening to these students experiences has opened my eyes to this matter with some saying they felt that by putting down their ethnic background on the application form would automatically hinder their chances of getting the job, as well as them saying they had to ‘tone down their blackness within the workplace’ to fit in.
This whole time I had been oblivious to the topic of discrimination and how black people have been treated, due to not being affected the same way myself. I know quite a lot of white people struggle with talking about this topic, however, I think that it’s important to note that we need to have these difficult conversations in order to better understand how the black population feels so that we can make the necessary changes and help them feel like they belong.”
How we can help
Here at TG consulting we are passionate about supporting student engagement initiatives, building confidence and creating opportunities for the masses rather than the few.
We recognise that education can be the gateway to social mobility and a core tool in breaking the disadvantage cycle, however, evidence shows that the employability skills gap remains problematic as top graduate jobs are still being dominated by those from advantaged backgrounds.
We have expertise in developing and scaling initiatives to support your widening participation students, to really close the employability skills gap and level the playing field. We can support you to identify opportunities to increase engagement with hard to reach students, break down barriers and create real-world opportunities for your students.
Some of our services in this space include the development of student engagement initiatives, work-based learning and placement provisions as well as embedding real-world learning opportunities in the curriculum. We also provide services for recruitment campaign consultation and talent attraction strategies.
Contact us to find out more about how we can support your student engagement priorities at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Katie Watson, TG Consulting Intern