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"There is still systematic and institutional discrimination against women and ethnic minorities in the workplace"

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Employers today are increasingly looking for a more diverse workforce, but a report last month by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Race and Community still found that black and ethnic minority (BME) women face discrimination “at every stage of recruitment” from employers.

We asked two experts: "Do you think it's acceptable for companies to have a positive bias towards a preferred gender and ethnicity, or even advertise for it?"

Today, Vivienne Hayes (pictured), CEO, Women's Resource Centre, gives her thoughts:

"It has been proven that systemic and institutional discrimination exists against women and ethnic minorities in the workplace. The report by the APPG on Race and Community shows discrimination within recruitment and employment. It lists examples where women of ethnic backgrounds were advised to change their names to 'British' ones, to be considered for job interviews.

Simply stating that there should be more BME women in the workforce or on the board of FTSE 100 companies is not enough. This shift will only come about if clear and strategic measures are taken.

Organisations need to assess the diversity of their workforce and undertake procedures to address discrimination. There are a number of proven methods to achieve this goal. Firstly, organisations should advertise jobs in targeted outlets in order to reach under-represented groups. Secondly, by evaluating the diversity of the recruitment panels. Evidence suggests people recruit in their own image; thus, majority male and/or white recruitment panels are likely to recruit from their own gender or racial group. Thirdly, when all candidates are relatively equally qualified, prioritisation should be given to those with gender and race taken into consideration, in order to redress existing imbalances.

Measures to rectify these imbalances cannot be viewed as discrimination against white male candidates. Positive action is entirely legal and is indeed recommended, in the form of temporary 'special measures', by the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Positive action is a necessary tool to help redress the deeply entrenched biases that exist against women and BME groups and is essential in improving the existing uneven playing field."