Race, Pay And Opportunity: How Inequality Breeds Contempt

 Race, Pay And Opportunity: How Inequality Breeds Contempt

By Carmen Morris

Equity around race, pay and opportunity is the theme that is fuelled much debate around boardroom tables of late. Racism and systemic inequality around pay, has long been a causal concern of many Black professionals. In these current times of heightened debates around institutional racism, the race pay gap can no longer be ignored, but is it one that organizations will find particularly challenging?

It has long since been part of conversations between Black professionals and their communities, and it would appear that some organizations are committing actions to tackle it. However, things may not be quite as they appear.

Making commitments to analysing and uproot systemic racism, and then not participating in clear actions to embed diversity and inclusion, is disingenuous. Not only that, but it breeds contempt from those who have received leadership commitment towards actions that will redress racial imbalances.

The Plight of Black Professionals

In Britain, actions are being undertaken to measure pay inequalities across racial lines. Whilst useful to actions to promote and embed better race equality, studies are showing some deeply concerning results, which question the authenticity around a real response to pay inequality in general, and the ethnicity pay gap, in particular.

Earlier this year, more than 200 leaders in the UK’s advertising and media industry, signed an open letter committing to address issues of racial inequality, following the death of George Floyd. The letter committed leadership solidarity with Black talent, and proposed concrete steps to achieve greater equality within the creative sectors. However, some 3 months later, it has been revealed that only one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies has calculated it’s ethnicity pay gap. 

The seemingly concerted effort to advance racial equality, via the open letter, can only be seen as a knee-jerk reaction;a rhetorical statementto align to racial inclusion, and one that still leaves Black professionals in a place where their concerns are not being authentically taken on board.

The idea that industry leaders commit to change, and then do little to move forward with activities to inform and procure it, is a long held frustration with Black professionals. It question the authenticity of leadership to support a change agenda, that will develop equity in the workplace.

Why Are Black Employees Paid Less Anyway?

Not all things racial can be aligned with unconscious bias… some things are quite conscious and cannot be blamed on administrative oversight. The ethnicity pay gap has developed as a key instrument of institutional racism; a causal and calculated enactor for suppressing the growth of Black and Brown communities.

Removing barriers to opportunities for Black professionals, is the goal of any organization that is truly authentic about increasing outcomes in the race equality agenda. Pay inequity, borne of the complacency of leaders to act upon calls from Black communities and their allies to address racial inequity, has led to the monetary devaluation of the skills and labour of Black people, with Black women being especially affected.

Figures from the United States, suggest that the race pay gap starting an early stage in careers, and continues over its lifespan. Black employees are grossly underpaid throughout their careers and this problem becomes particularly alarming  and even widening further for professional Black women.

The widening wealth gap between Black and White professionals has been the subject of much debate and is key to formulating an inclusive workplace experience for Black and Brown professionals. Neglecting this most important part of the diversity and inclusion agenda, is paying lip service to racial inclusion, and tantamount to propagating a strategic avenue for suppressing the generational growth of communities of colour.

For years, the gender pay gap has taken precedence over the ethnicity pay gap by many an organization, but it now looks as though that might be changing. With the increased focus around racial diversity, and inclusion, there has been an uptake in organizations considering their ethnicity pay gaps, as part of their efforts to improve racial inequalities.

Stifling Opportunity

It seems incredulous that so many organizations have until now, not been willing to underscore diversity and inclusion by reviewing their ethnicity pay gaps in a formal way. Nevertheless, the prominence of the discourse around race, has led to an increase in calls to address this serious imbalance, which affects so much of the life experience of Black communities.

Racial pay gaps, are not only unfair, but also stifle the progress of Black and Brown people across all aspects of their lives. In the United States, clear correlations have been made between the race pay gap, and its impact on housing, education and other life opportunities, and experiences, that have a negative effect on communities.

Across data points and research reports, the lack of opportunities for Black people, including professionals, is a key area of focus across recruitment and retention dialogues. It is also an area where organizations can look to inform development across the race equality agenda. Leadership must, as part of an action orientated agenda to promote and embed racial inclusion, understand their responsibility for advancing equality of pay for all groups, regardless of background.

Race pay gaps impact Black and Brown workers across socio-economic disparity, and stifle opportunities both within, and external to the workplace. Income is also well known to impact of well-being, education, health and housing.

The debate around the race pay gap, is a key area of inequality that must be addressed. Although there is a rise in organizations collecting ethnicity pay gap data, there is much further to go. Collecting of data is only the start. 

Concrete actions to address the long standing pay imbalances, will support Black workers to engage in, what will ultimately be fulfilling careers, and they are enabled to avail themselves to the positive experiences that life has to offer themselves, their families and the Black community. 

Is The Forced Publication Of Ethnicity Pay Gaps The Only Way Forward?

Since 2018, organisations with more than 250 employees have been mandated to publish gender pay gaps in the UK. This was indeed a welcome step in the right direction. However, key recommendations of the McGregor Smith Review, a government review  into racial disparities in the workplace, one of which was to mandate publication of disparities around ethnicity and pay, has yet to be implemented.

Continuing calls for businesses to be mandated to publish ethnicity pay gaps, have failed. Recently, the UK’s Shadow Equalities Secretary, Marsha De Cordova, said that policy would help to tackle pay discrimination, whilst  with Business should be made to publish their ethnicity pay gaps.

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Originally posted on Forbes

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