BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minority) employees are more likely than their white colleagues to feel they have to change their behaviour to fit in at work, according to research from the CIPD.
The poll of 1,290 UK employees, titled Addressing the barriers to BAME employee career progression to the top, found that a third (34%) of BAME respondents felt the need to modify their behaviour in order to fit in, compared with a quarter (27%) of white employees.
Close to half (45%) of BAME respondents said they feel the need to censor how much they tell their colleagues about themselves, compared to 37% of white British workers who felt the same. When it came to the breakdown of different backgrounds within this group of BAME respondents, black people (50%) and Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Indian employees (48%) were the most likely to feel this way. Chinese and other Asian employees (35%) were least likely.
BAME women were found to be slightly more cautious about sharing information about their personal lives than BAME men: 44% compared to 46%.
The research recommended that organisations become aware of intersectionality: the fact that everyone has multiple identities which overlap – for example being a gay black man or a disabled older white woman. This means some people might be affected by multiple factors supporting or hindering their progression at work, it highlighted.
Speaking at a discussion of the research, diversity and inclusion advisor at the CIPD Jill Miller, said that employers could be doing more to help BAME employees. “My key message is that you don’t need to have a characteristic of a particular group to sponsor it,” she said. “You just need the belief that it is the right thing to do.”
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, highlighted the key role HR must play. “HR must be more confident and more active when it comes to challenging this,” he said. “They need to be more confident that they have the data and the insight [to help improve the situation]. HR has got to step up.”