Diversity in the Workplace: Ethnic Minorities
19 June 2017
Diversity means business. And businesses need diversity. So far this month, we have spoken about gender, LGBTQI and disability diversity, and the added value that communities with different needs and backgrounds can bring to the workplace. This same value can be found in employing candidates from an ethnic minority background.
Ethnic minorities in Scotland make up 4% of the population. In 2015, an estimated 393,000 of the usually resident population of Scotland were born outside of the UK. The five most common countries of birth were Poland, India, Republic of Ireland, United States of America and Pakistan. Yet, this is not reflected in our workforce, where ethnic minorities account for just 2% of employees.
The ethnic minority pay gap also far outleaps the gender pay gap – it stands at a shocking 14%. On average educational achievement is now higher amongst ethnic minority groups, with higher rates of university participation. Yet this is not translating to success in the workplace.
When I attended the inaugural Diversity Conference Scotland in May, I was saddened to hear about such statistics. Pheona Matovu, of ethnic minority employment firm Radiant and Brighter, discussed at length the many examples of discrimination ethnic minorities face when trying to gain employment.
For example, refugees and immigrants are more likely to be living in overcrowded conditions, with insufficient access to bathrooms or money for food. How can you go to an interview if you cannot shower properly or eat a meal beforehand?
Discrimination can affect mental wellbeing as well as opportunities (in terms of living conditions and access to employment) and treatment while within the workplace (access to promotions or further training, isolation by colleagues and peers).
Pheona told us: “Legislation does not change the hearts of people – we need to want to see the change.” This statement hits the nail on the head. Diversity recruitment cannot be something a business simply professes on paper, but something they must live and act on. Most people from a culturally different background are keen to learn the values of your business in order to integrate successfully with your existing employees. They just need to be given a chance to do this.
How can your business attract employees from ethnic minorities? Is your recruitment process culturally sensitive for those who have had no experience of job hunting within the UK?
It has been proven, several times over, that when a business has a workforce that accurately represents its customer base, it is more productive and profitable. Essentially, we like to know that a business shares our values.
It is perhaps this lack of visible role models within certain industries that prevents people from an ethnic minority from considering a career in that field.
Diversity is about inclusion, fairness and justice. It’s about creating a safe working environment where every employee feels valued. It’s an agenda that must stem from the top and make its way down so that all employees are free from prejudices.
If businesses embrace what all sectors of the population have to offer, this can surely only lead to better understanding and integration within our communities. And, in an age where the world can often seem isolating or frightening due to ignorance, who wouldn’t want that?
Written By Hilary Roberts