Racism is stopping Bame workers getting top jobs – and the government isn’t doing enough to help them

Only 52 out of the 1,099 top roles in the country are filled by non-white individuals. This is shocking and the government must do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of improving diversity

Akala explains systematic racism to Tommy Robinson in BBC Free Speech clip

The results of the latest Colour of Power survey, conducted by Operation Black Vote and consultancy Green Park, have revealed that a mere 52 out of the 1,099 top roles in the country are filled by non-white individuals. This is an increase of just 15 people since the 2017 index.

Of most concern is the fact that of the 12 leaders of our political parties, none are from a Bame background. Of the 26 cabinet members, only four are Bame, and of the 94 government ministers, only six are, despite the fact that all these individuals represent our democracy and are at the heart of a nation that is striving for equality and diversity, and combatting racism.

In fact, across the 39 categories covered by the research, including central and local government, public bodies, the private sector, education, sport and charities, 15 of these sectors had no ethnic minority representation at all at their top levels.

This is shocking, considering that it is estimated that by 2061, the Bame population will be 42.1 per cent, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Living and working in Tower Hamlets, one of the most diverse boroughs in the country, I frequently hear of the challenges that my constituents face in many aspects of their lives: education, employment, housing and healthcare. Sadly, discrimination and stereotyping are still rife and some of the stories that I hear are shocking. I recall how a young man had changed his name on his CV from Omaar to Owen following the Manchester terror attacks because he found it harder to move on to more senior positions as a result of stereotyping of Muslims

In fact, a BBC test found that a jobseeker with an English-sounding name was offered three times the number of interviews than an applicant with a Muslim name. Last year, ITV reported that more than a third of employees from an ethnic minority background in the Midlands had been told to change their name to something more English. 41 per cent changed their appearance, 25 per cent changed what they ate and 23 per cent adhered to other religious or cultural practices to fit in.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) used to employ two Bame commissioners: Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece and Lord Simon Woolley, but both lost their positions in 2012, ironically for being “too loud and vocal” about race issues. Currently, there are no Black or Muslim commissioners, including the chair.

In the CIPD 2017 report about addressing the barriers to Bame employee career progression to the top, one of the key findings was that more Bame employees said career progression is an important part of their working life than those from a white British background, yet were more likely than white British employees to say their career progression to date has failed to meet their expectations. The reasons included being judged more harshly than their white counterparts, being less likely to be promoted, and experiencing discrimination.

Despite the government announcing that it would form a new commission on race and ethnic disparities in order to address racial and social inequality, it seems to be little more than lip service when their own Bame membership is poor.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Newby believes that: “Everyone in a position of power within every organisation needs to ensure that its working practices are inclusive in all areas, from the bottom to the top. The question is, how many race and ethnic disparity commissions is the government going to undertake and hide behind, claiming that they are going to address the problem? What we need to see is action behind the words.”

On the positive side, Sir John Parker conducted a formal government-backed review, which resulted in a package of measures, one of which stated that Britain’s largest companies have four years to appoint one board director from an ethnic minority background.

Matt Hancock said: “I’m particularly struck at the high proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds and people who have come to this country to work in the NHS who have died of coronavirus. I find it really upsetting actually and it is a testament to the fact that people who have come from all over the world have come and given their lives in service to the NHS and paid for that with their lives.”

Have these communities not shown their worth to the government in the contribution they make to Britain?

Rabina Khan is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Shadwell in Tower Hamlets Council.

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