According to a report produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), women from ethnic minorities are facing significant discrimination when trying to find employment, with some responding by anglicising their names or removing other signifiers of ethnicity.
Since the 1980s, unemployment rates for black and minority ethnic women have remained significantly higher than the average. In 2011, unemployment amongst white women stood at 6.8 percent; by contrast, the overall rate of unemployment among ethnic minority women was 14.3 per cent. Among women of Bangladeshi or Pakistani ethnicity, the rate rose steeply: 20.5 per cent of women in these groups were unemployed.
The report states that such women face discrimination “at every stage of the recruitment process”. This includes the initial job search, the applications process and the interview stage.
Discrimination doesn’t end with recruitment, according to the all-party committee behind the report. Women from ethnic minorities continuing to experience discrimination in the workplace after they have found a job.
In particular, some Muslim women report removing their hijabs for job interviews and to avoid discrimination in the workplace.
In a desperate attempt to try and avoid such discrimination, many women report taking steps to “whiten” their applications. These measures can include changing their own names for ones which sound more European and omitting any activities that might give their ethnicity away.
While concealing their ethnicity might initially be helpful in allowing applicants to pass the initial stages of the recruitment process, women report that prospective employers became less favourable towards them when it emerged that they were not European.
Discrimination at the interview stage is based both on gender and ethnicity, the report noted. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women reported experiencing gender discrimination at interview; they were often questioned closely about their plans for marriage and children. Muslim women faced assumptions that they would be leaving the workplace after having children.
“All unemployment is equally tragic”, APPG chairman David Lammy commented, “but women from ethnic minority backgrounds face a greater challenge to enter the labour market than most”.