Almost half of black women working in white-collar jobs believe they will be overlooked for promotion, according to a report from non-profit network Black Women in Leadership (BWIL).
BWIL surveyed 250 professional black women across a number of industries in the UK to compare their experiences with those of their non-black female colleagues.
More than four in 10 (44%) of black women do not believe they are offered the same career advancement opportunities as their non-black female colleagues, the network found, while more than two thirds (68%) have experienced racial bias at work.
Black women in senior executive or senior management positions were even less likely to believe they were offered the same professional development opportunities, with 33% and 31% respectively thinking this to be the case.
Half of those in senior management positions had resigned due to racially unfair or uncivil treatment from colleagues, and a third of all respondents had resigned for this reason.
Thirty-eight percent suspected they did not earn as much as non-black colleagues performing the same role.
The survey also revealed that 58% of black women had a sponsor at work – a widely acknowledged means to support career advancement.
However, many women who had taken part in these programmes listed difficulties such as finding common ground with their sponsor or sourcing someone with the right level of influence and authority to positively influence their career.
Dara Owoyemi, co-founder and director of BWIL Network, said the findings of the research showed “how much work still needs to be done”.
“We hope that this study will contribute to the discourse and engagement around these vital issues of diversity, inclusion and equality as it relates to black female professionals,” she said.
Ronke Lawal, founder of Ariatu PR and an advisor to the network, said the findings should serve as a call to action for organisations.
The report lists five ‘START’ actions companies should consider to address inequalities experienced by black women in the workplace.
Selection process: employers should reduce the likelihood of conscious and unconscious bias in hiring through measures such as blind recruitment, diverse interview panels and removing unilateral decisions.
Transparency: collecting and monitoring pay data, and reporting the ethnicity pay gap, will shed light on potential pay penalties for black female employees. This intersection between gender and race is too often overlooked, according to BWIL.
Accountability: More corporations should set public diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) goals and develop internal governance structures to track and monitor progress against the goals.
Representation: Work towards achieving increased black female representation at board level as this can increase the population of potential sponsors and advocates for those women coming through the pipeline.
Talent management: Provide fair career advancement opportunities for black women by establishing professional development programmes and setting rules for increasing diversity within selection committees that choose those who will be promoted.