Racial jokes 'still tolerated' in financial services

Study by Reboot and Coleman Parkes

clock • 3 min read
Seven out of ten ethnic minorities (68%) have experienced discrimination at work in the last year, the findings suggested.

Seven out of ten ethnic minorities (68%) have experienced discrimination at work in the last year, the findings suggested.

Derogatory jokes, fewer opportunities and unwelcome comments are still being suffered by people from ethnic minority backgrounds within financial services, with HR often doing little to help, according to a survey.

The research was carried out by Reboot and Coleman Parkes, based on 800 people working in financial services roles with a minimum of 10 years' experience in the industry. 

It found that a high proportion of ethnic minorities working within the financial services industry are experiencing discrimination, with as much as 25% reporting racial jokes were still tolerated in their workplace.

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This study also suggested failures on the part of HR departments to deal with race-related problems.

Around half (47%) of those who have faced discrimination said they have raised issues with their HR team and of those, 75% felt HR was not very effective at dealing with these issues.

Seven out of ten ethnic minorities (68%) have experienced discrimination at work in the last year, the findings suggested, with eight out of ten (82%) facing unwelcome comments based on their background.

One in three (32%) ethnic minority respondents reported they do not have the same opportunities as their white peers.

Hannah Grove, Reboot advisory board member and non-executive director, said: "These stark findings are bad for society and business and mean that w are perpetuating systems and practices that keep a significant talent pool from achieving their full potential."

She added: "The cost of status quo is way too high and success, or failure, will impact us for generations to come."

Among white peers, a fifth (22%) said they feel uncomfortable talking about race in the workplace.

Those who had experienced discrimination say they have come under greater scrutiny by managers (52%) and colleagues have treated them differently (48%) for speaking up.

This was leading to increased absences, with almost half (49%) of those respondents experiencing discrimination over the last year saying they had to take time off work.

A similar number have had to seek counselling to help recover from all the negativity in the workplace (56%).

Dimple Mistry, co-chair of the race and ethnicity workstream at the Diversity Project and Reboot Ambassador, said the findings are "a call to action for all HR professionals to come together, educate themselves and create safe channels for staff to approach them, and for matters to be taken seriously when raised".  

Almost half (44%) of ethnic minorities said the speed of their career progression has been slower than that of white peers, with one in three (32%) feeling they do not have the same opportunities.

Race-based issues were also preventing ethnic minorities progressing at work and prompting them to switch jobs. 

Four out of ten (40%) of those surveyed said they are likely to search for a new role in the next six to 12 months, with one in ten (9%) of these people blaming their organisation's discriminatory culture for a potential move.

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This is something that appears to be on financial services firms' radars, as half (46%) of leaders recognise that the lack of ethnic minority role models within their organisation hinders career progression.

Noreen Biddle Shah, founder of Reboot said: "This year's results are concerning - from the amount of discrimination ethnic minorities are experiencing, the lack of representation in senior roles, to a continued discomfort to speak about race in the workplace.  

"It is fair to say most individuals believe in a fair and diverse workforce, but the systems in which they operate are flawed and we need to find a way to make real changes and measure the impact. We also need allies and leaders to speak up to help normalise what is still sadly so taboo."

Progress is being made, with as many as eight out of ten(81%) people feeling the company they work for is actively promoting an inclusive and diverse working culture.

However, some feel leaders prioritise tackling gender (58%) as they are still uncomfortable tackling race issues.