Career Worries for Minority Women

Women of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Caribbean descent are doing well in schools but are still being penalised in the workplace, a report suggests. The Equal Opportunities Commission found 80-89% of 16-year-olds of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Caribbean intended to work full-time. But it said they were up to four times more likely to be jobless. The CBI said better careers advice and work experience was needed but it did not accept such discrimination existed.

The business organisation said “too many restrict themselves by only going for jobs or careers where they can see women from a similar background already present”.

According to the EOC, in 2005, 60% of white girls attained at least five GCSEs grade A to C, compared with 59% of Bangladeshi girls; 54% of Pakistani girls and 49% of Black Caribbean girls.

This is compared with 50% of white boys; 33% of Black Caribbean boys; 43% of Pakistani boys and 47% of Bangladeshi boys.

Marriage questions

The three groups were chosen by the EOC as those who faced the most discrimination, despite having the same aspirations as white girls to combine work and family life.

It found women from each group faced specific problems.

For example, of 1,000 women under 35 questioned, one in five of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin – of whom 90% were Muslim – said they had experienced negative attitudes to religious dress at work.

Many of these young women are telling us they have to deal with racism, sexism and negative stereotypes
Jenny Watson, EOC

And one in six Pakistani and one in eight Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean women under 35 said they were “often” asked at job interviews about their plans for marriage and children or that they had been asked by employers what their husband and/or partner thought about them working.

The research, into 16-year-olds, found half of Black Caribbean girls and two-thirds of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis felt there were certain jobs they could not apply for because of their ethnic background or gender.

They were also significantly more likely to look at whether an employer made it clear it welcomed applications from all ethnic minorities and whether women from ethnic minorities were in senior management.

Black Caribbean women were also finding it difficult to break out of health and social care jobs.

Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said the next generation of confident, ambitious young black and Asian women had a lot to contribute to their families, to local communities and to the economy.

“The bad news is that not enough employers are tapping into this pool of talent – despite demographic predictions that suggest Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Pakistani women will make up, in some areas, a significant proportion of the workforce of the future,” she said.

“And many of these young women are telling us they have to deal with racism, sexism and negative stereotypes.”

“It’s not only employers who miss out – we all do when young women’s ambitions are dashed and we fail to build cohesive communities.

“More must be done before another generation of promising young women fall prey to the same negative cycle of poor pay, poor prospects, and occupational segregation.”

Susan Anderson, CBI Director of HR Policy, said the report showed the girls were “confident and ambitious” and “just the sort of employee that businesses are looking for”.

She added: “Employers report that they receive too few applications from women and ethnic minority groups, and they recognise that they need to take positive steps to attract these young girls.”