BITC’s Race at Work survey of 24,000 people reveals how race affects career progress

Employers are being urged to provide managers with race equality training after Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people were found to be under-represented in the workplace and less likely to be rated as top performers than their white counterparts. 

The Race at Work survey, conducted by Business in the Community (BITC), found that 64 per cent of BAME employees were keen to progress in their organisation compared with 41 per cent of white employees, but it also found only 55 per cent of BAME employees felt valued, compared with 71 per cent of white employees.

The report, which collected responses from more than 24,000 people, found BAME employees to be significantly more likely to feel they had been overlooked for a promotion (30 per cent) compared to white employees (23 per cent). While a third of BAME employees (33 per cent) did not think that managers treated all ethnicities equally in career progression.

Sandra Kerr OBE, race equality director at BITC, said people managers needed greater training around diversity inclusion and unconscious bias. "For HR professionals, priority one is around supporting the workplace with tools and training to raise awareness of unconscious bias and diversity inclusion, with specific focus on those involved in the recruitment process, promotion processes, pay awards and talent management and ensuring that new people coming into the organisation get training so that those values are reinforced."

Nearly half of employees (49 per cent) said they have been offered equality, diversity and inclusion training. But a quarter said their organisation does not offer any training of this kind, while only seven per cent said diversity and inclusion training was mandatory for managers. 

The report also warned that employers could be at risk of losing young people who feel under-used, with BAME employees less likely to agree that their current job makes good use of their skills and abilities than white employees – 54 per cent compared with 57 per cent respectively. 

The survey also found that 30 per cent of BAME employees reported having experienced or witnessed racial harassment and bullying in the workplace in the past year.

"Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of the workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise," Kerr said. 

"Policies like dignity at work, valuing difference, looking at what bullying and harassment is and how to identify it, and having a clear and simple way to report it if you need to. Prevention is the best way, so give messaging that it is not tolerated, but then should people feel they are being bullied there should be an easy reporting route," she added. 

Recommendations given in the report to employers also include: offering increased access to work experience for young people with a BAME background; setting objectives for managers around ensuring diversity and inclusion in their teams; reviewing succession planning for diverse talent; encouraging and delivering mentoring for their BAME workforce.