The Black experience at work

woman on phone

How do you drive Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace? We’ve partnered with specialist diversity and inclusion organisations: Qlearsite, CV Library, Pearn Kandola, The Kaleidoscope Group, and the Inclusive Group to survey 7,500 Irish and UK professionals - to understand the career challenges and workplace experiences through the lenses of Gender, Ethnicity, Age and Disability.  Access the full strategic D&I report here.

As employees across the globe engage in discussions of racial justice, and leaders seize the moment to consider their roles and opportunities to advance diversity, equality and inclusion at their organisations, we break down the challenges black professionals face in the workplace, and actions employers can take to address issues of racial marginalisation.

Barriers to progression for Black professionals

The majority of Black professionals (62%) state that having a lack of opportunities made available to them is their biggest career challenge, almost 10% higher than for white professionals. Additionally, and perhaps not surprisingly, half of black professionals (49%) state that a lack of diversity in management or senior positions also presents a significant challenge for them, as opposed to only 22% of white professionals.  

This lack of representation presents a significant barrier in and of itself: without Black people in positions of power, and with decision-making authority for hiring and promotion decisions, the lack of diversity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. More than a third (36%) of Black professionals state that they are impacted by the lack of diversity in their industry, significantly more than their white counterparts (22%).

Unsuccessful pay negotiations for Black professionals 

Black professionals were the least satisfied with their pay of all ethnicities surveyed. Despite there being little difference between the proportion of Black and white professionals that have attempted to negotiate their salary in their career, there is a significant difference in the level of success of those negotiations.  

42% of Black professionals (44% of Black Africans and 39% of Balck Carribeans) who attempted a salary negotiation did not receive any increase at all - this was around double than for white professionals at just 21%. What’s more, white professionals were the most likely of any ethnicity to be successful in negotiating their salaries, with 35% receiving 75%-100% of the figure that they asked for - where only 20% if black professionals received the same increase.  Even more tellingly, Black caribbeans are the most likely to think that their employer would not give them a pay rise (37%).  

woman on phone

BAME as a catch-all is not a
helpful term

BAME stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. As a term, it can be more problematic than beneficial as it seems to cement the white supremesist idea of the white majority versus all other identities. Along with this idea is the inferred intention that all other identities should integrate into the white majority’s cultural norms within societies and organisations, contrary to many ideas of what true inclusion and belonging should look like. 

The term can also disguise the discrimination specific to certain ethnic groups, and doesn’t allow for their very different experiences. Our data served to highlight this point, with large disparities reported between the experiences of the different ethnic groups we identified; African & Caribbean, Arab, Bangladeshi, Chinese, other Asian, Indian and Pakastani.  

Our data suggests that the ethnicities that are held back the most in their careers are: Arab, Bangladeshi, Pakastani and African and Carribean. These groups appear to report more negative workplace experiences that their Chinese, Indian, other Asian and White colleagues. That is not to say that Chinese, Indian and other Asian employees do not experience bias in the workplace but, again, the form this takes may be quite different than for Black Carribean employees.


Unfortunately, we know that racism is still widely prevalent in our talent systems - all the way from our school systems, to recruitment, performance management and, as our data has shown, in promotions, salary negotiations and management and leadership representation.  

First of all, it’s important to call it what it is: systemic racism. That is, racism that exists within our systems. If we don’t first acknowledge it as such, we will not be able to fix the underlying problem at the level of the system. We’ll just continue to implement interventions such as ‘unconscious bias training’ with little to no positive impact.  

In order to tackle problems inherent to the systems in which we operate, we suggest auditing your talent systems to understand what are the barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Understanding the differing needs that exist within your organisation and building a culture where everyone can feel included will be the ultimate competitive advantage for organisations trying to tackle D&IFor more information on supporting employees of all ethnicities, download the D&I Strategy Report today.

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