Ethnic workers looking to leave as financial services failings highlighted

New research shows that a high proportion of ethnic minorities working within the financial services industry are experiencing discrimination and concerningly, some businesses are not dealing with this effectively.

A survey released today by Reboot and Coleman Parkes found that seven out of ten ethnic minorities (68%) have experienced discrimination at work in the last year and eight out of 10 (82%) have experienced unwelcome comments based on their background.

Furthermore, a quarter (25%) of survey respondents believe that racial jokes are still tolerated where they work suggesting discrimination in the workplace is still rife.

This is the second successive year of the Race to Equality in UK Financial Services report by Reboot – a campaign group of senior financial services professionals working to maintain the dialogue on race and ethnicity in the workplace. The survey is based on 800 people working in financial services roles with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in the industry.

Worryingly, it found ethnic minority employees do not feel comfortable reporting discrimination to their Human Resources (HR) departments. For instance, around half (47%) of ethnic minority survey respondents who have faced discrimination, say they have raised issues with their HR team and of those, three-quarters (75%) felt HR was not very effective at dealing with these issues.

In addition, those who have experienced discrimination say they have come under greater scrutiny by managers (52%) and colleagues have treated them differently (48%) for speaking up.

This is having a direct impact on businesses. Almost half (49%) of those respondents experiencing discrimination over the last year say they had to take time off work and a similar number have had to seek counselling to help recover from all the negativity in the workplace (56%).

Dimple Mistry, co-chair Race and Ethnicity Workstream at Diversity Project and Reboot ambassador, said HR departments had to take  a lead in the work that needs to be done.

“Given my professional background, there is a call to action for all HR professionals to come together, educate themselves and create safe channels for staff to approach them, and for matters to be taken seriously when raised,” she said.  “I recognise that this is a journey that does not stop, this requires us all, no matter what your background, to come together to consciously work towards creating a truly inclusive industry and workplace cultures that enable professionals from an ethnically diverse background to feel a strong sense of belonging and thrive wherever they are.”

Hannah Grove, Reboot Advisory Board member and non-executive director added action was needed now of the impact would be felt in the long term.

“We simply cannot afford to allow these findings to persist.  We all need to challenge ourselves to do better, to be allies that speak up and act, and to change the narrative,” she continued. “These stark findings are bad for society and business and mean that we’re perpetuating systems and practices that keep a significant talent pool from achieving their full potential. The cost of status quo is way too high and success – or failure – will impact us for generations to come.”

The research found almost half (44%) of ethnic minorities say the speed of their career progression has been slower than that of white peers. Furthermore, one in three (32%) respondents feel they do not have the same opportunities as white colleagues.

It added a lack of senior representation is preventing ethnic minorities progressing at work and prompting them to switch jobs. For instance, four out of ten (40%) ethnic minorities say that they are likely to search for a new role in the next six to 12 months, with one in 10 (9%) of these people blaming their organisation’s discriminatory culture for a potential move.

This is something that appears to be on financial services firms’ radars as half (46%) of leaders recognise that the lack of ethnic minority role models within their organisation hinders career progression.

Noreen Biddle Shah, founder of Reboot said: “This year’s results are concerning – from the amount of discrimination ethnic minorities are experiencing, the lack of representation in senior roles, to a continued discomfort to speak about race in the workplace. We need to understand the issues raised in the latest report so that we can work together to drive positive change and create more inclusive working environments for people working within the financial services industry.

“It is fair to say most individuals believe in a fair and diverse workforce, but the systems in which they operate are flawed and we need to find a way to make real changes and measure the impact. We also need allies and leaders to speak up to help normalise what is still sadly so taboo.”

The research found almost half (44%) of ethnic minorities say the speed of their career progression has been slower than that of white peers. Furthermore, one in three (32%) respondents feel they do not have the same opportunities as white colleagues.