Black men, women and other people of colour feel like they have to hide their personalities at work, according to a new study.
The study, carried out by Utopia, a company which helps companies build purposeful, inclusive and entrepreneurial cultures, interviewed a representative sample of over 2,000 respondents across the UK.
It found that ethnic minority workers feel immense pressure to hold a standard of professionalism that favours white workers.
Nearly half (49%) of the Black, Asian, and other minority workers in the UK feel they have to mask part of their identity to fit in at the office.
The idea is even more pronounced in women as 59% of Black and Asian women feel this way.
Additionally, 41% of BAME people overall feel their workplaces don’t offer inclusive cultures, highlighting a genuine disconnect between employees and their higherups.
The inclusivity problem extends to the career ladder too – 41% of BAME people feel less likely to progress professionally because of their ethnicity.
Meanwhile only 9% of white workers felt this way, indicating that BAME workers are more susceptible to barriers due to their ethnicity.
The research also shows half of BAME men and 59% of BAME women are afraid to show vulnerability for fear of being judged.
In addition, 44% of minorities are afraid to ask for emotional support at work when they need it.
Tolu Farinto, change-maker at Utopia says that Black people especially are disadvantaged in the workplace.
She explains: ‘The research shows the Black community, in particular, is faced with the pressure of forming faux identities because employers are orchestrating an environment that expects workers to “act white”.
‘And because of these “white cultures”, Black employees are not progressing as fast as their white colleagues. To overcome these systemic challenges, businesses must create inclusive cultures that demonstrate ethnicity is not a barrier to success in the workplace.
‘This is integral now more than ever, as employers start to consider the move back to the physical office.’
Emma Mainoo, who is part of Utopia’s mental health practice, adds: ‘A diverse, inclusive workforce is a healthy workforce. To go back to an environment where they still feel like outsiders is something ethnic minority workers shouldn’t have to face.
‘However, the Black Lives Matter movement has forced people, managers and business leaders to take accountability and spearhead change. Hopefully, this will translate into the post-pandemic workplace.’
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