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A union boss in Wales has called for positive discrimination in favour of black and ethnic minority women applying for jobs.

According to Welsh employment figures, BAME women are much less likely to be employed than their white counterparts, and Shavanah Taj, head of the PCS trade union in Wales, said positive discrimination is the only means to effect change.

Positive discrimination is currently illegal under the Equality Act 2010, although employers can take “positive action” to support those from under-represented groups.

Taj, who is Wales’ first Muslim woman to lead a union, said: “Positive discrimination should not be a dirty word. Where are [BAME women]? They’re not in the boardrooms, they’re not on the boards of organisations. There are no BAME women assembly members.

“It’s not that people are incapable or don’t have the training or skill set, but there’s clearly some barriers that we’ve got to overcome.”

Taj said she had left Wales in order to get experience to progress in her career. BAME people make up 5% of the Welsh population, although the figure is higher in certain cities such as Cardiff, where the statistic is 18.4%.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that Pakistani and Bangladeshi people had the lowest rates of employment, and revealed that BAME women were more likely to be ‘economically inactive’ than white women.

Dr Hade Turkmen, who put together a report for Welsh equality charity Chwarae Teg, argued for more BAME women to be represented in senior jobs and government so their voices could be heard. Her report ‘Triple Glazed Ceiling – Barriers to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women Participating in the Economy’ argues for job applications to be anonymous and called for employers to do more to understand the experiences of BAME women.

She said: “Only with this detailed understanding of the unique experiences of BAME women are decision-makers able to effectively break down the barriers. It is crucial that any proposed solutions for achieving gender equality in workplace should be considered through an intersectional lens which accounts for and addresses the varied experiences of BAME women.”

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