BAME workers feel they have to mask identity at work
Jo Gallacher, June 30, 2020
Appreciate this will come across as naive, but what is 'acting white' - what actions/behaviours do some within the black community feel the obligation/pressure to mimic in order to fit in? Also, ...
Read More J D
July 01, 2020 11:00
Nearly half of BAME (49%) workers in the UK said they have to mask part of their identity to fit in at the office.
According to new analysis by culture change organisation Utopia, this increased to 59% of BAME women.
Half (50%) of BAME men and 59% of BAME women also said they were afraid to show vulnerability for fear of being judged.
This led to 44% afraid to ask for emotional support at work when they need it.
The research demonstrated a disconnect between employees and the C-suite, with 41% of BAME people feeling their workplace didn’t offer an inclusive culture.
A shocking 41% of BAME people felt less likely to progress professionally because of their ethnicity, while only 9% of white workers felt this way.
Tolu Farinto, change-maker at Utopia, said the research was indicative of the black community having to create false identities in their professional lives.
He said: “The Black community in particular is faced with the pressure of forming faux identities because employers are orchestrating an environment that expects workers to ‘act white’. And because of these white cultures, Black employees are not progressing as fast as their white colleagues.”Shakil Butt, consultant at HR Hero for Hire, said ideas about what an employee looks like are often modelled by the leadership team.
“If the leadership show their true selves it gives permission to everyone else. This can range from dress style, to hairstyles, to language, to accents, to ethnic origins. This is only an option though if there is already genuine diversity at the top. If the top is white, male and stale then it is likely they have put in place people who are just like them in every regard from race to gender to social class.
“This provides HR a great opportunity to support the organisation in making change happen but they need to be honest with themselves on whether they have contributed to the problem, allowed the problem to continue and whether they are themselves limited by their own biases and mindsets.”
Farinto argued that businesses need to work harder to develop inclusive cultures as employees consider the move back to the physical office.
Yet despite the need for change, Butt said HR can be afraid of change.
He added: “Fear of change is not something that HR are immune from. Fear of going against the grain can be paralytic. HR functions need to have honest frank conversations with their leaders and workforce as well as taking a hard look at themselves.
“It does ultimately come down to business appetite and resources. After all we are asking for those in power to give up some of that power and empower others in a more socially equitable arrangement where everyone can be the best version of themselves. Is that not the point of HR?”