- Written by Adina Campbell
- community affairs reporter
“I noticed that it wasn’t me in the workplace,” says Hilda Covey. “I try to loosen it up a bit. You always find yourself having to straighten your hair to fit…”.
The 24-year-old from Ghana says she has changed her appearance and the way she speaks since moving to the UK in 2016.
A new report says that two-thirds of women of color in the UK workplace are converting to a suitable place.
The government said all workplaces should be free of discrimination.
The changes that Ms. Kwoffie experiences in some women of color are known as ‘code-switching’.
The term is widely used to describe blacks, Asians, and other ethnic minorities feeling the need to conceal their cultural identity in predominantly white settings, such as workplaces.
“We are programmed this way: this is how you should act, talk, walk and look,” Ms Kwoffie said.
“I talk to my family and friends in a completely different way than I do in my workplace,” adds the legal assistant who works in London.
Ms. Kwoffie’s experience mirrors the results of a survey conducted by the Runnymede Trust, a racial equality think tank, and the Fawcett Society, a gender equality organisation.
Their report found that 61% of women of color said they had changed their language, the topics they discuss, their hairstyle, their diet, and even their name, “to a significant extent” or “enough” to fit the job. This number can be compared with 44% of white women.
The report, titled Broken Ladders, is based on a survey of 2,000 women of color in UK workplaces, which the groups say is the largest representative survey of women of color to date.
Three-quarters of these women said they experienced racism at work, which in some cases led to them leaving their jobs, not being promoted, and shortening their careers.
Dr Halima Begum, CEO of Runnymede Trust, said employers risk losing talent.
“Women of color face a double threat,” she said. “From school to the workplace, there are structural barriers between them and the opportunities they deserve.”
Jemima Olchucki, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said society must not tolerate completely unacceptable racism in the workplace.
“These evidence and the stories women share with us should be a rallying cry for governments, employers and educational institutions to make real change,” she said.
A trained lawyer told the BBC she left a previous job because a colleague felt she was successful at work.
Sophia (not her real name) said, “I had a supervisor who was kind of condescending. I couldn’t stand it and left.”
“I later learned that she had told one of my colleagues that she was completely surprised by my results.
“She gave me the job. So I guess the only thing that could have given her that idea was seeing an African title on my resume and also the fact that I didn’t go to school. Private.
“It made me doubt myself about my abilities to do this profession.”
Polls show that blacks, Asians, and other ethnic minorities are still underrepresented in leadership positions.
The Broken Ladders report made a number of recommendations for employers, including clear and transparent processes for reporting cases of racism, multi-pronged anti-racism training, and “standing interviews” rather than “exit interviews.” To review professional experience.
It also calls on the government to introduce a company-led plan to address gender and ethnic pay gaps, as well as publicizing wages in job advertisements.
A spokesperson for the Department of Business said the government takes the issue of racism very seriously.
He believes that all workplaces should be safe environments where people from all backgrounds can work together and thrive without discrimination.