The most disrespected workers are black women, aged over 45, in local councils - YCEO Africa

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The most disrespected workers are black women, aged over 45, in local councils

 New survey finds that older black women face a "triple assault" of racism, sexism and ageism.

Black women aged 45 and above, who work in the the public sector, are the most disadvantaged workers in the UK, according to a new survey.

The survey by Henley Business School, part of Reading University, found that almost three quarters (74%) of women aged 45 and older from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, do not feel as safe speaking up at work, in comparison to 39% for young ethnic minority males aged 18 – 44 years old.

The survey also revealed, black African and Caribbean employees are more than twice as likely to experience racial discrimination compared to any other ethnic group. 

Three quarters of black women women aged 45 and above felt less respected by people they work with, compared to 63% for younger black men. 

For workers in the public sector the situation only worsens. 

Women face a triple assault of racism, sexism and ageism, and therefore suffer the most discrimination in the workplace.

The statistics revealed, public sector employees are more than twice as likely (58%) to have reported discrimination in the workplace, compared to 25% their private sector counterparts. 

Gloria Mills, chair of the TUC’s race relations committee, called on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) watchdog to investigate further.

The report, called the Equity Effect, also found 72% of older black women are less likely to feel they can bring their true authentic self to the workplace. 

The findings explore the state of racial equity in UK businesses and looked into whether employees from BAME backgrounds are being treated fairly and with respect in UK workplaces. 

The report found the leading form of discriminatory practice was discrimination in work allocation (41%). Verbal abuse was listed second (33%).

Inappropriate and unfair application of work policies or rules was the third most common type of experience.

Public Sector

Dr Naeema Pasha, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Henley Business School told The Voice, many black women fare facing a “triple assault” in the workplace.

Dr Pasha said: “A lot of research into race focuses on the experiences of ethnic minorities as a whole, failing to cross-reference with other personal characteristics such as gender and age. 

“Our research reveals that the sub-group of ethnic minority women face a triple assault of racism, sexism and ageism, and therefore suffer the most discrimination in the workplace.

“Our report shows that racism is experienced much more in the public sector than the private sector, despite public sector organisations often having the most strongly worded diversity campaigns.

“This means the messages in the strategy are not coming through the organisation as an experience.”

Gloria Mills, who is also UNISON head of equalities, said: “Black women experience a double whammy of race and sex discrimination and that’s worsened further where disability is a factor.

“The government and employers must do so much more to tackle the structural, systemic discrimination and racism in the workplace.

“Public sector employers and those providing public services are legally obliged to eliminate discrimination. The EHRC has to investigate this report’s disturbing findings and hold employers to account.”

One public sector worker, with over 20 years’ experience, told The Voice that black women in the public sector, are being sidelined for promotions in favour for white workers with less experience. 

Glass Ceiling

Zana Beckford (not her real name) said: “Black women are maligned for more junior staff who are not as equipped to do the role and that is a common theme that I see for Black women in the public sector. 

“There are a lot of black social workers, but they never make it to any senior leadership level, it is like there is a glass ceiling and they can never breakthrough to assistant director. 

“They are stuck at team manager level, despite decades of experience and brilliant track records. 

“They are blocked and are kept in that middle management space and you continuously see a lot of white employees making progress to senior roles without the relevant experience. 

“There is a lot of gate-keeping of leadership roles within the public sector.”

The 45-year-old has worked with over 100 local authorities throughout her career and said a lot more needs to be done to address racial disparities within local authorities. 

Beckford, who works for a west London council, said the council prides itself championing diversity and inclusion, but on the inside they are denying black employees opportunities and keeping them in operational roles.  

Beckford said that during the pandemic black employees were working significantly longer hours than white colleagues and this is an example of the “disrespect Black women face on a daily basis.” 

Lip Service

She said: “The Black employees were front and centre working extremely hard during the pandemic but white employees were able to take days off – it was very obvious.” 

Beckford believes many local authorities have not acted on their public anti-racist statements, which were posted after the murder of George Floyd in the US. 

“It just lip service,” she said frankly. 

The data found, despite a surge in recent anti-racism campaigns and statements from businesses, racism is still prevalent in UK workplaces, with Black employees once again found to be worst off. 

Dr Pasha, told The Voice, she was not surprised by the findings. 

She said: “The report found Black employees are more worst off and it is depressing, we know that in society Black people receive the highest levels of discrimination and prejudice and this also applies to the workplace.  

“It is a lot to tackle, but I am glad it has been pulled out of this data, so we can start pushing for change.”  

The research was compiled by using quantitative and qualitative methods, such as in-depth interviews with businesses and employees and the survey used a research sample of 1,005 employees and a national sample of 505 business leader and owners. 

Since the start of the pandemic, many businesses transitioned to remote working and this has had a positive impact on employees from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

According to Henley’s research, 1 in 4 employees from BAME backgrounds observed their BAME colleagues speaking up more on Zoom calls during lockdown compared to during the office. Many believe the idea of communicating online helped to break down behavioral boundaries and put everyone on a ‘level playing field’.

The report also found companies who provided targeted support for BAME employees recorded 58% higher revenue than those who do not. Those companies also experienced greater staff output, job satisfaction and loyalty. 


Dr Pasha believes if businesses do not adopt a more proactive approach to addressing racial equity, they run the risk of isolating workers which will ultimately impact job satisfaction, performance, and revenue. 

She is urging businesses to take equity and diversity and inclusion seriously if they are to survive in the world of business. 

She said: “Taking a stance on equity, diversity and inclusion is a critical part of whether your business will be successful. 

“Diversity and inclusion is not just a social problem or an education problem, it is relevant in the workplace.”

The report has made recommendations for businesses to implement diverse leadership teams and the embrace of equity, to help businesses to overcome the issues revealed in the survey.

Henley has used key insights uncovered in the report to enhance three of its apprenticeship programmes from March 2022. 

The programmes will look at leadership, management and future leaders and participants will be given guidance on why equity is key for organisational success to ensure things change for ethnic minority workers in the future. 

Read the Equity Report in full here:


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