Photo: Sojourner Truth
Whether we are exploring the 'concrete ceiling' for Black women in business, or the growing body of evidence of the experiences of racially minoritised women using maternity services, it is clear that unique barriers and forms of discrimination are perpetuated when race intersects with gender.
We will explore the experiences of racially minoritised women in the UK and what more can be done to ensure that everyone has equal rights, opportunities, and access.
The Impact of Negative Stereotypes
Stereotypes of racially minoritised women have been an issue for many years, and these stereotypes are based on bias and discrimination. Numerous studies have examined the influence of negative preconceptions on these women’s lives. Studies have found that these stereotypes impact work and career experiences, such as the gender pay gap and underrepresentation in senior positions.
In addition, research has also revealed that stereotypes about racially minoritised women can impact economic activity status and mental health. It is crucial that these challenges be addressed and that steps be taken to guarantee equality for all women, regardless of their ethnicity or background.
Negative stereotypes can also lead to feelings of alienation and anxiety, affecting mental health.
The persistence of stereotypes in the workplace can create an environment where racially minoritised women are judged harshly or unfairly, leading to fewer opportunities for promotion and career advancement.
Despite advances in equality, it is clear that there are still deeply entrenched beliefs about the capabilities and worth of women of racially minoritised backgrounds. Whether it be believing that Black women are in less need of pain relief in healthcare, or being characterised as the 'angry Black woman' for voicing an opinion - research has shown that these stereotypes can justify unequal treatment leading to growing disparities in health, education and employment.
A recent report by the Black Women in Leadership Network found that nearly half of Black women working in white-collar jobs in the UK believe they will be overlooked for promotion despite having equal competence as a non-Black female colleague.
The impact of COVID-19 has also created further challenges, such as access to healthcare and highlighting existing disparities in mental health and economic activity. Therefore, efforts should be taken to combat current preconceptions and establish an inclusive workplace for all women.
The gender pay gap also disproportionately affects racially minoritised women, with research showing that they are more likely to be in lower-paid jobs than their white counterparts. All these factors contribute to the inequality experienced by racially minoritised women in the UK and demonstrate the need for greater understanding and action to ensure greater equality.
Work and Career Experiences
Work and career experiences of racially minoritised women in the UK can vary dramatically, depending on the intersecting identities they inhabit. Research has shown that Black and Asian women are twice as likely as white women to be employed in insecure jobs and are significantly underrepresented in senior positions. The Fawcett Society and the Runnymede Trust have highlighted these issues, citing bias and discrimination as significant impediments to progress.
The Gender Pay Gap
The gender pay gap is a significant issue in the UK, with ethnic minority women often being disproportionately affected. According to the data from the Office of National Statistics, the gender wage gap for full-time workers was 9.4% in 2020. When looking at specific racially minoritised groups, the gender pay gap can be much more significant. For example, according to recent figures from the ONS, Indian women have a median full-time hourly rate of 11.2% lower than white men, and Pakistani and Bangladeshi women have a median full-time hourly rate of 20.6% lower than white men. African women's median full-time hourly rate is 15.5% lower than white men's.
Studies have found that racially minoritised women often have higher rates of poor perinatal mental health, such as antenatal and postnatal depression, compared to the general population. Additionally, before the COVID-19 pandemic, racially minoritised communities were disproportionately at higher risk of exacerbating mental health issues due to various factors such as stigma and cultural understandings of mental health.
There are also significant disparities in access to mental health services for racially minoritised populations. There is a great need for culturally competent care, and services proactively supporting historically marginalised communities who are in the greatest need of health services.
Intersectional identity narratives are an essential part of understanding the experiences of racially minoritised women in the UK. This concept acknowledges the multiple identities that individuals may have, such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and religion. It recognizes that these identities are inextricably linked and can intersect to create unique experiences of oppression and discrimination.
Sojourner Truth's speech in 1851 highlighted how black women were excluded from conversations about race and gender. Similarly, Crenshaw (1989) argued that the 'one-dimensional' model of identity failed black women as their experiences of oppression were rendered invisible.
More recently, studies have shown that racially minoritised women experience inequalities in healthcare related to access uniquely because of their intersectional identities.
Understanding intersectionality has always been essential, and continues to be a key priority when understanding the experiences and outcomes for racially minoritised women in the UK and beyond.