Increasing ethnic minority women’s representation in Westminster and the board room
Jess McCabe // 9 January 2009
At Comment is Free today zohra has a great piece calling for government action on the lack of ethnic minority women in positions of power, both in government and big business.
For ethnic minority women, the problem is far worse. Their absence in positions of power is so severe across the public, private and voluntary sectors that it really is a power vacuum. As the Fawcett Society’s forthcoming report on ethnic minority women and power reveals: there are only two ethnic minority MPs out of 646; there is only one ethnic minority woman in the senior judiciary; there is only one British ethnic minority woman director in the FTSE 100; and none of the top 50 highest-earning charities have an ethnic minority woman chair or chief executive.
Shockingly, a new report by Business in the Community’s Race for Opportunity (RfO) campaign finds that this situation is actually getting worse for ethnic minorities trying to break into boardrooms. Tracking ONS data over seven years, the report concludes that race and ethnicity still act as barriers to progression, with ethnic minority women facing worse prospects than their white counterparts. It further asserts that without government intervention, the trend will spiral further downwards every year. Indeed according to Sandra Kerr, director of RfO, “ethnic minorities don’t and won’t ever hold a representative share of jobs”. Damning indeed.
Yet options for change are plentiful – the government just needs to take them up. When single ethnic minority women have children, the government could support them by finally tackling pregnancy discrimination, banning the dismissal of pregnant women (numbering 30,000 every year) and recognising that women have the right to choose what works best for them. When a South Asian Muslim woman bank manager states that she is the victim of race, sex and religious discrimination, the government could seize the upcoming opportunity to finally make provisions in our equality law for multiple discrimination claims to be heard. Perhaps most obviously, when Pakistani women face pay gaps of 28%, the government could stop pretending that the problem will fix itself and instead adopt mandatory pay audits as the most viable solution.
Read the whole thing here, but be warned: the comments are an irritating slew of denial that there is a problem, and assertions that ethnic minority women would be represented in positions of power, if only they could speak English; get out of the kitchen; were good enough at their jobs. Because, my dear readers, we live in a meritocracy, and what you thought was institutional sexism and racism is, in fact, an illusion! Ack.