Racial prejudice in UK “unsurprising”, there are high levels of racial inequality in the workplace

Sandra Kerr OBE, director of Business in the Community’s race equality campaign Race for Opportunity, has said she is not surprised that racial prejudice still exists in the UK.

The 2014 British Social Attitude survey has just revealed that self-reporting racial prejudice is on the rise, particularly in educated male professionals. The report shows that nearly a third of people in Britain admit being racially prejudiced.

“It is unsurprising to me that racial prejudice still exists in the UK, as our research consistently shows high levels of racial inequality in the workplace, as well as damaging racist language,” Ms Kerr said. “It’s disappointing that the number of people self-reporting racial prejudice in the UK is on the rise, particularly in male professiona

Sandra Kerr OBE, director of Business in the Community’s race equality campaign Race for Opportunity

ls. This is most worrying as this group is statistically more likely to rise to senior positions in business and have influence on organisational cultures.”

Fear of the unknown often leads to racial prejudice, Ms Kerr said, adding that individuals feel ‘safer’ with people of similar backgrounds – be it ethnicity or otherwise.

“This “unconscious bias” affects recruitment of people of an ethnic minority background, and perpetuates a ‘them and us’ way of thinking. It’s well researched that CVs with ethnic minority names are more likely to be rejected in favour of the exact same CV with a more traditional ‘white’ name,” Ms Kerr said.

She urged employers to take responsibility for tackling behaviours that result in workplace inequalities and have potential to escalate into racial bullying. “Providing unconscious bias training and encouraging employees to participate in mentoring programmes with ethnic minority employees and young people would, I believe, go some way in challenging racial prejudice in these self-reporting groups of working individuals,” Ms Kerr said.

In June Race for Opportunity will launch a report into the extent of racial inequalities in senior management. The report “will be an indicator of just how embedded unconscious bias towards ethnic minorities is within UK business,” Ms Kerr said.

Observing that the number of ethnic minorities in the UK will increase to 30 per cent of the population by 2050, Ms Kerr appealed to the “government, employers and community groups to ensure societal and workplace divisions do not widen even further.”

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