The cry of inequality is still ringing in our ears

Friday 21 September 2018

kerri 20182018 is supposed to be the “year of the woman” but still workplace sexism and racism is rife, according to a new Young Women’s Trust survey. For some young women, encountering racism and sexism in the workplace is their everyday reality and not surprisingly these experiences are having a significant impact on young women’s mental health.

Four in 10 young women are concerned about how their work environment effects their mental health, according to Young Women’s Trust’s annual survey out today. Alongside this, nearly half of the young people in the black and ethnic minority community expressed that they have been treated unfairly when looking for work or when at work.

Our mental health is precious and the constant ill treatment that we suffer is causing some of our bright young women to feel emotionally unwell. This demands a serious call to action if we are to avert a mental health crisis among young women in our community.

The argument is often ‘look how far we have come’ but this can distract us from the real argument of ‘we still have a heck of a lot to do’. Through sheer determination we as black and ethnic minority women have advanced in our careers, can be seen at board level, we add a tremendous amount of value to all sectors.

I, along with many other women of colour, have experienced discrimination in the workplace. I have seen how employers treat their employees that are not born in the UK less favourably to those that are white British.  

Subtle acts of discrimination such as preventing requested holiday that had been asked for in advance so they could make that long awaited visit to their family, being quicker to take disciplinary action against them, and of course in too many cases a lot of us from black and ethnic minorities get paid less. This type of discrimination is not always so glaringly obvious for others outside of our community but for us it feels constant and exhausting.

When Government officials and employers contemplate removing names from CVs and job applications, so that candidates are judged on merit as opposed to skin colour, we have a problem.  Our names form our rich cultural identities that we are proud of.

I shouldn’t have to worry that my application will be discarded because of my name suggest a hint of ‘ethnic’ when I apply for a job. I shouldn’t be questioning whether I will ‘fit in’ because I may be the only or one of a few, women from a BAME background in my department.

This year was celebrated as the “year of the woman”. I am a black woman and I am always celebrating our community and our cultures.

But until we as a community feel that we have reached a place of real and reflective equality, we need to put the we’ve come a long way’ argument on hold, while we focus on the ‘we have a heck of a lot more to do’.

Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally, and permanently discredited and abandoned everywhere is war – Emperor Halie Selassie