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Racism Experiences in the Workplace in the UK Report

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Updated: Feb 10th, 2022

Introduction

Racism is a topical problem in the present-day world since it undermines the quality of life of ethnic minorities. Despite the attempts of UK lawmakers to stop racial discrimination in the workplace by requiring organizations to increase diversity among employees, this issue is still present in the country (Kamasak et al., 2019). This research paper provides the background of racism in the UK, particularly in the area of employment. Further, it presents and discusses the results of the interviews with two female respondents belonging to ethnic minorities who experienced racial discrimination at work. Finally, the conclusion summarizes the paper and provides recommendations for further studies.

Background

Globalization has allowed the working-age population to move from country to country in search of employment more freely than ever. However, in an attempt to find a job or during the working process, employees belonging to ethnic minorities frequently encounter the consequences of racism. Overall, racism means “the ideology that makes use of essentialized phenotypical, biological and sometimes cultural difference to express and reinforce these inequalities” (Kamasak et al., 2019, p. 108). Workers belonging to a particular ethnic group are subject to racial discrimination when they experience the excessive negative influence of policies or treatment within an organization (Kamasak et al., 2019). In the UK, ethnic minority groups generally include Black and Asian ethnicities.

Racism in the UK has a long history that is traced back to the era of colonization. Although colonialism contributed to the economic growth and the establishment of trade relationships between people, it also divided ethnic groups and set them against each other, thus creating a racial order (Kamasak et al., 2019). Even though the present-day UK positions itself as a multicultural country that fosters equity, its racist history still influences many areas of life (Kamasak et al., 2019).

The consequences of racism in the workplace include lower wages of members of ethnic minorities and their underrepresentation in leadership positions (Kamasak et al., 2019). The UK legislation tries to address these issues, for example, by adopting the Race Relations Act 1965 and the Equality Act 2010 (Kamasak et al., 2019). However, ethnic minorities still experience racial discrimination in the workplace.

Aims

The UK struggles against racial discrimination and paves the way to equity and inclusion in the area of employment. Nevertheless, racism is an issue that is difficult to eradicate without complex measures. The first objective of this research was to investigate the perceived experiences of women belonging to ethnic minorities from workplace racial discrimination. The second aim was to discuss these experiences and the impact of racial discrimination on members of minority groups.

Method

The design of this study was qualitative research using structured interviews. Qualitative research is an appropriate research method for studies not involving numerical measures and intended for gaining an insight into human phenomena. Therefore, the use of this method for the study designed to understand human experiences is justified. Structured interviews allow for the consistency and fairness of treatment of the responders because they are asked the same questions in the same manner.

For eliciting more useful information about discrimination experiences, some open-ended questions were included in the interview, namely, Questions 6 and 9, which are listed in the Appendix. The respondents were two women, one of whom was Black, and the other was South Asian. They were approached in the workplace at St. David’s shopping center and agreed to answer some questions about their discrimination experiences.

Results

The first respondent was a 25-year-old South Asian woman who worked as a sales associate in a clothing store. In response to Question 4, she replied that she experienced workplace racial discrimination. She said that she received stricter treatment from her supervisors in terms of working discipline and gained little support from her white colleagues. For example, when she wanted to switch shifts with someone for family reasons, nobody agreed to it.

However, when her white colleague asked for the same favor, several people were willing to help her. The respondent’s answers to Questions 7 and 8 were negative. In response to Question 9, the woman shared her experience of searching for a job. She said that she had a degree in Communications and wanted to find a job in this professional field, but different recruiters had been rejecting her CV for six months. Eventually, she lost hope to find a job in Communications and got hired as a sales associate.

The second respondent was a 28-year-old Black woman working as a sales associate in a retail shop selling beauty products. Just like the first respondent, she reported experiencing racial discrimination in the workplace. She said that in the early days of her work at that place, her manager told her to straighten her long curly hair because it did not fit the dress code in its natural form. Although it seemed racist to her, the woman followed the advice.

Further, the second respondent shared that, one month ago, there was an open position of an assistant store manager. Since she had been working in that place for a year and a half, she considered herself quite experienced and asked her manager to promote her. The manager refused and employed a white woman who had not been previously employed there. The respondent did not report this case but shared her experience with her family. The response to Question 9 was negative since the woman’s previous workplace was more diverse in terms of ethnicities.

Discussion

The results of the interviews indicate that, despite the measures taken by the UK legislation to address the issue of racial discrimination, this problem still exists in society. Racism in the workplace brings negative experiences to people belonging to ethnic minority groups. The interview with the first respondent demonstrates that minority groups may have difficulties finding jobs, especially if the sought-after jobs are high-skilled.

As is seen from the interview with the second respondent, racial discrimination may hinder individuals from climbing the career ladder, which, consequently, results in the impossibility to improve the quality of life. The study has limitations, the first of which is a small number of respondents. Furthermore, the study lacks generalization since the respondents were chosen according to specific criteria, i.e., they had to be female and be in a similar situation.

Conclusion

Racism is a present-day issue in the UK, which stems from the era of colonialism. Ethnic minorities in the UK, including South Asians and Blacks, experience racial discrimination in the workplace that displays itself in lower wages, fewer career opportunities, and poor social relationships with coworkers. The research reveals the need for integrated efforts of the government, organizations, and individuals to address the issue of racial discrimination in the workplace. Moreover, people should be encouraged to report cases of discrimination, and measures should be taken to avoid these reports being unnoticed.

Reference List

Kamasak, R. et al. (2019) ‘Race discrimination at work in the United Kingdom’, in Vassilopoulou, J., Brabet, J. and Showunmi, V. (eds.) Race discrimination and management of ethnic diversity and migration at work: European countries’ perspectives. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing, pp. 107-127.

Appendix

Interview Questions

  1. What is your age?
  2. How would you define your race or ethnicity?
  3. What is your occupation?
  4. Did you experience racial discrimination in the workplace?
  5. When did it happen?
  6. What happened exactly?
  7. Did you report the discrimination?
  8. Did you share your experiences with friends or colleagues?
  9. Have you experienced racial discrimination with another job? If so, please, describe your experiences.
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