Loanna Morrison is Director of Public Affairs for DiverCity is Right. She was the Conservative candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark at the 2010 General Election.
The Prime Minister announced recently that his government will institute a measure requiring companies with more than 250 employees, to publicly disclose information on the average pay of their male and female workers.
In an interview he gave to me on Colourful Radio in 2014, I suggested to him a similar measure to help more ethnic minorities into employment. They are measured currently by irritating monitoring forms asking what shade of black they are. If businesses were made to publish a breakdown of their workforce, ‘this measure could work by shining a light on discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change.’ This would be useful for both gender and race. He agreed on both counts but chose the easier option.
The gender pay gap has vastly improved over the last 20 years even for black women. And there have been major improvements in gender bargaining power compared to minorities. Not a week goes by without initiatives to get women onto FTSE 100 boards, smash the glass ceiling, become MPs and so on. There is no similar high level lobbying going on which will improve employment positions for ethnic minorities.
Women have never been more equal. Their choices may put them in a position of inequality if measured financially rather than on the value of family and health. That doesn’t make them wrong, just different.
Bearing children and rearing them while pursuing a career and navigating the politics of the workplace and the school gate is pretty exhausting. In addition they’re expected to nurture and polish their external appearance to a degree not expected of men.
For black women appearance is their first barrier to access. No amount of make up will change their colour. Even Asian women are far more likely to access and enter jobs at every level of employment than blacks. There were no black conservative female candidates entering parliament this year. All were Asians. Has anyone noticed?
Michelle Miller, the former JP Morgan wealth manager turned publishing phenomenon, said, ‘if you wanted to get ahead in the corporate world, especially in hi-tech, looks weren’t just an asset but a necessity – unless you were a man, in which case you could be as fat or as spotty or as weird as you liked.’
If employees are selected by looks, does that mean people running companies think ethnic minorities are unattractive because they’re black? Do they find Asians closer to their idea of beauty or are there other attributes that we are missing? In fact, high level black staff are so rare they are given awards just for getting the job.
I think my ‘ask’ would be easier to accomplish and a much more neutral position to adopt. People are resistant to the world and his wife knowing how much they earn. Pay is personal. But it seems the Prime Minister has concluded it’s less politically sensitive to shine the light on the gender pay gap than on this ‘ethnic deficit’. There is already a consensus that the former exists, but the latter is unrecognised – and obviously women are a bigger voting constituency.
The inequalities for ethnic minorities are more than structural. They are also societal.
Minorities have no voice. Even our current black Members of Parliament are disinclined to be openly vocal about racial issues. To be fair, as a Conservative they would never win a seat on the black vote.
Even when minorities have degrees, they are not treated equally in pay or career progression. A study conducted in 2012 by the Institute for Social and Economic Research said:
‘…One implication is that some minorities do not earn as much as their education would warrant…This sorting is due in part to personal factors such as education but some is almost undoubtedly because minorities find it harder to enter better paid occupations.’
Although the Conservative Government is improving educational outcomes among the current generation, the government’s own statistics suggest that minorities’ wages lag significantly behind all other groups - not just in the United Kingdom but around the world. Having enshrined it in law that 0.7 per cent of our GDP should go to help the poor and disadvantaged everywhere, they’ve failed to notice that nearly half of Africa is now living in Peckham. The African population in Britain has doubled in the last 5 years; 0.1 per cent of GDP would probably be enough to enable their autonomy.
Despite minorities being self-starters, partly through necessity (Africans are very entrepreneurial - note the proliferation of churches) which has fuelled a huge increase in start-ups in this group since 2010, they are less able to access start-up funding. So growing their business enough to generate jobs in their community can never happen.
For black men the picture is even bleaker than black women. Forget about getting on the ladder: where is it? The ISER research concludes that ‘Where a negative pay gap occurs it is because ethnic minorities tend to cluster into low-paying occupations.’ Hence minorities become dependent on working tax credits and supplementary benefits. The only industry in which they are marginally better off is in the public sector. This might explain their preference for voting Labour.
Look at Peckham, Brent, Haringey, Hackney, Tower Hamlets – all run for the last 30 years by those nice lefties. They are still poor, crime-ridden and exhibiting unsatisfactory educational outcomes. Youth worker is not a job - it’s a remedy.
On the gender issue, Michelle Miller concluded: ‘It’s not as simple as discrimination any more. It’s more nuanced, and that’s why we’re not getting anywhere. We’re not willing to call that out. There is a lot of unconscious bias and it’s an uncomfortable subject because it’s not intentional.’ For obvious reasons, gender equality can never be achieved – but employment equality for someone of a different colour only requires political will.
Prime Minister, the gender gap can now take care of itself. Now is the time to tackle the ‘ethnic deficit’.