More than a third of BME staff polled have been bullied, abused or experienced racial discrimination by their employer.
Figures from Trades Unions Congress show the sad reality of a work environment faced by BME staff, which goes to show the need for more support groups to be able to empower and support.
Work is where you tend to spend most of your week battling to earn that cruicial wage to fund that expensive handag, oh wait! that may just be me! Well that was my mentality when in my early 20s not knowing where I wanted to progress. I remember the first time I attended a BME internal support group, which was when I was employed by Barnardos. This event was empowering and made me realise how important it was to have support in a workplace. I remember the workshops that tackled how to deal with racial discrimination at work, the choir that sang uplifting songs and the support guide on becoming a better you.
It was a whole weekend full of uplifting BME public speakers who spoke of inspirational stories and words of wisdom. They enlightened me into a whole new reality exposed to the struggles but encouraged with the fight against racial discrimination.The best bit about this weekend was it didn’t came at my expense, as it was the charity that ensured to have a support group that supported it’s BME staff enabled them to attend regardless of duties and demands. As empowering as the event and support group may have been this didn’t shy away from the fact that I was in a department where the only two BME staff were in the lowest grade and paid job and as much as I felt enlightened by the experience, I was in a place with no other opportunties to grow or fulfill all my potential.
We all want a work environment to be free from any sort of abuse, but this is not always the case. In my time I have been in various workplaces and experienced various racist remarks. Anyone who knows me knows I am not the type to sit back and listen to racist remarks and I am always one of the first ones to confront any sort of discrimination. When reading some of the reports on the Trade Union Congress it came to no surprise BME staff found it hard reporting incidents, as they were so afraid of the consquences of doing so. Firsthand I have experienced workplace bullying when I was working in the NHS after reporting a senior staff member who made a racist remark! This included attempts at sabtoging my work to make me look reckless to having other staff members gang up on me! Leaving me in a position where the work environment becoming one of the stressful ordeals I have had to face. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t report racism at all, the experience made me stronger as I ended up researching my rights and making sure I knew how to report incidents.
One of the key aspects I find to having a support group is having that cruicial support network to go to when you may be experiencing discrimination or require information on your rights. It’s not always easy to put your mind into figuring out what best way to tackle situations going on at work or ensuring you are making positive changes in the workplace without having a support network that knows the cultural barriers you may be facing. The main reason to having a BME centered support network is having someone who you can relate to and is aware of the cultural barriers, the stigmas and struggles you may face in the communities that may affect you personally.
The trades union congress found 3 vital points in their reports when looking at the experiences of BME women in the workplace. These included:
- Racism and sexism came as a pair for BME women who do not only experience different forms of racism but also because of their gender. BME women are stuck in low paid jobs in the public and private sector such as cleaning, caring, catering and retail.
- The second point is the ability to reporting their experiences. Like most employees the fear of repercussions can lead to lack of reporting any sort of discrimination.
- The last point is the long lasting effects of racism or discrimination. 60 per cent of BME women reported that the experiences affected their mental health.
Common misconception of BME led support groups are they are there to create a divide between non BME and BME work colleagues. This is a misconception echoed by many. A support group isn’t there to create a divide but in order to empower an individual who may find cultural barriers in every aspect of an application, accessing a service or simply entering a workplace.
I will be elaborating more on this in a podcast in the coming weeks and speaking to an inspector from West Yorkshire Police. So stay tuned