Discrimination means black employees fail to achieve their career expectations, says new report

Three in ten black employees say discrimination to blame for failing to achieve their career expectations. That’s according to the latest research by the CIPD, which says that 29% of black employees say that they are held back because of racial discrimination.

This is despite the fact that significantly more BAME employees said career progression was an important part of their working life than those from a white British background (25% vs 10%), says the CIPD.

“There is clearly still a long way to go until we can say that equal access to progression opportunities exists regardless of ethnic background,” says Dr Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD: “Progress is crucial, and some of the fundamentals of business need to change to avoid having this conversation again in five years’ time.”

Line management

Around a third of those BAME and white British respondents (29% and 35%), who said their career progression to date has failed to meet their expectations, said they had experienced poor quality line management at key points in their career. The survey found that a significantly low level of line manager support for career development is an issue across the board, regardless of ethnicity.

Only around two-fifths of all respondents (43% BAME and 39% White British) say their line manager discusses their training and development needs with them. Just over half of employees across BAME and white British groups feel able to talk to their manager about their career aspirations (53% and 52%), and only around two-fifths of respondents across BAME and white British groups say their manager understands their career aspirations (41% and 40%).

Miller says: “Line managers have a significant influence on person’s career through the opportunities they afford members of their team, the coaching and training they provide, and the development conversations they have. Organisations need to invest much more in the development of line managers, and help them to understand the needs of each team member to provide the appropriate development support.”

How the figures compare

One in five BAME employees (20%) in the study said that discrimination had played a part in a lack of career progression to date, compared to one in ten (11%) white British employees.

BAME employees were also much more likely than white British employees to say that seeing other people like them that have progressed in the organisation, and a greater diversity of people at senior levels in their organisation would help their career progression. One in four BAME employees also said that mentoring would be useful at work.

This feedback is crucial, says the CIPD, for HRs to help organisations to drive change and question workplace structures.

“Organisations need to understand where the barriers to progression for different groups lie, and use this information to level the playing field and enable talented people to reach their potential at work. They mustn’t forget though that different minority ethnic groups are facing different obstacles and that many of us have multiple and overlapping social identities, so it’s important not to assume that one solution will remove progression barriers for all,” says Miller.


The guide makes a series of recommendations, aimed at policy-makers, including:

Provide practical support for race pay gap reporting

Develop guidance for employer action to create more inclusive workplaces

Advocate and support better quality people management practice

The guide makes the following recommendations for employers:

Understand what is happening in your organisation

Think beyond policies

Actively encourage employee voice

Data and evidence to drive change

Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE says: “What is clear is that data is king. Employers must have a better, evidence-based understanding of their workforce to be able to take effective action. I believe publishing pay gaps by race and pay band will improve transparency and will ensure that employers are focusing on the right problems and taking appropriate action.”

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