Discrimination of Black Women in the Workplace

There was an article published earlier this month on the BBC website titled Workplace discrimination prompts ‘whitened’ job applications’ which lead to an explosion of  unsettled emotions of shock, sadness, disappointment, anger and a sense of despair all rolled into one!

It focuses on the difficulties faced by Black Women getting pass the application process to get a job, as they face discrimination based on their African or so-called ‘unpronounceable’ names. Can you just imagine that your name that you were born with, that you are proud to have inherited from your mother or fathers’ family, is the barrier to you getting a job?

Ethnic minority women face discrimination “at every stage of the recruitment process”

Highlighted by a Member of Parliament

As a result, a large population of young graduates as well as older adults, in particular women are not even getting an interview as their CV’s or application forms are being rejected immediately, maybe often without even being read. Therefore really great candidates with ample motivation, skill and aptitude will not even be considered for a post, when they may be exactly what a company may be looking for! It is this that makes me angry and gravely upset.

What does this mean for young black women and their future? Are we then going to be in a society with increasingly despondent and uninspired young black women resulting in further social problems which unemployment and idleness may bring?

Education is Still the Way Forward

Young Black Female Hopeful Who May Be a Victim of Society’s Employment Discrimination

As a result, British-born ‘Sonia Adeyemi’ who has parents of Nigerian heritage may not be considered for a job over ‘Mary Brown’ who is White British but has the same or even better qualifications. Equally ‘Deborah King’, who is also a British-born graduate of parents of Nigerian heritage who happens to have an English surname (as a result of colonialism), may have an advantage over other  ‘Sonia Adeyemi’s and may progress to an interview at least which may result in them being employed.

My feelings are that not only will it cause problems for graduates with African or Non-Western surnames and/or forenames (even if they are British born and bred), but this may further spark increased divisions between members of their own community as the Deborah Kings‘ may feel they have a ‘one-up’ on their fellow ‘over-Africanised-by-name‘ black counterparts.

The Optimism of Youth

The Optimism of Youth

I guess this story is not a new one, and discrimination in this form has taken place for many years. This has therefore often led to people changing their names by deed poll to create an image of themselves that may be more appealing to the ‘outside world’ especially in the workforce. For example, \\professionals- doctors or lawyers and so on, may find it easier for their patients or clients to have a more easily pronounceable name.  African-names may  ‘set them apart’ in a negative way from their other colleagues. As a result, certain professionals may find that they get more work, or are treated in a different way, often more ‘nicely’ by their colleagues or clients with their more Westernised unassuming names.

Having a Western surname makes a huge difference. Unfortunately stereotypes and discrimination exists and I am unsure if it will ever go away any time soon.

The question today is whether  the difficulties of getting jobs which evidence suggests, force individuals to take drastic measures such as to legally change their name, and effectively change their identity? For many this is not a simple choice to make and often an unwanted one,  especially when it seems that it is for employment purposes. However, some may feel that it is not just based on employment but it is an issue of  acceptance and inclusion into a society where racism and discrimination is real and very present. We all know that first impressions count, and the first impression that people may judge a person on, is simply by their name.

Unemployment figures in 2011

  • Overall unemployment rate for ethnic minority women – 14.3%
  • Ethnic minority men – 13.2%
  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi women – 20.5% (men – 12.8%)
  • Black women – 17.7% (men – 21.7%)
  • White women – 6.8% (men – 8.3%)

Source: Department for Work and Pensions

A Book Written by Irene Brown which touches on the issues faced by Ethnic Women in the Workplace

A Book Written by Irene Brown which touches on the issues faced by Ethnic Women in the Workplace

Unfortunately individuals in charge of the young graduates’ employment futures include people who will discriminate based on the first thing they see when making judgements of calling you for an interview- not your education, not your work experience, not where you live, but by the name that is on the application form.

Black entrepreneur

Black entrepreneur

So what is one to do? Would you agree that a young person should  stick to their guns and keep their original identity or make a change now in order to make better changes in the future. If more black people (men or women) reach higher positions, then maybe this type of ‘application form discrimination’ will change. But will it? The problems are already evident in breakdowns between black communities and the issue may self-perpetuating. So in some ways, you are ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

The difficulties are there. However the evidence is clear. To be employed or unemployed, that is the question! The decision to change your name makes me feel uncomfortable, although I recognise that discrimination is real and for some, it is an option that they may feel is forced upon them to make. What do you think?

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