Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic Women and the Double Glazed Glass Ceiling

If you happen to be a woman who falls within the intersections of gender and race, you are likely to be at a disadvantage in every area of your life.

By Carol Stewart
Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 2:13 pm
International Women’s Day 2020 is fast approaching and the theme for this year is Each for Equal.
International Women’s Day 2020 is fast approaching and the theme for this year is Each for Equal.

If you consider the glass ceiling that women generally face, for Black, Asian and minority ethnic women, the glass ceiling is double-glazed.

BAME women are disproportionately overrepresented in negative aspects of society such as unemployment, the mental health system, prisons, more likely to experience poverty, and so on, yet are disproportionately unde-rrepresented in positive aspects of society such as senior leadership positions, wealth, politics etc.

We only have to look at data published by the Fawcett Society and the Women’s Budget Group which show there is a gender employment gap of 9 per cent fewer women than men across Sheffield, and that five in 10 BAME women are in employment compared with seven in 10 white women.

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South Yorkshire Police has a 9.4 per cent proportion of BAMEs in the forces area, yet only 3.7 per cent of police officers are from a BAME background, as reported in Police Workforce England and Wales March 31, 2019.

In 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reported that if full representation of BAME individuals across the labour market through improved participation and progression is achieved, we could potentially benefit from an additional £24 billion a year to the UK economy.

It is more than 50 years since the introduction of the Race Relations Act 1968, but with figures like those mentioned above, something is systemically wrong. Many organisations have invested lots of money in unconscious bias training and other diversity and inclusion initiatives. Diversity and inclusion has become a whole industry in and of itself from when the first diversity officer was brought into the organisation I worked in some 23 years ago.

However, diversity and inclusion should not just be an add on to what we do, it should be integral to our everyday lives.

In the past 50 or so years, we have sent man to the moon, seen advances in technology that probably go way beyond my grandparents’ imagination, yet we can’t get gender and racial equality right. If organisations were penalised financially for such disparity as we have, those that do not perform well would have long gone out of business.

International Women’s Day 2020 is fast approaching and the theme for this year is Each for Equal.

To quote the International Women’s Day website, ‘Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious – so what’s not great about that…’

When considering gender equality, it is important to take into consideration the additional issues affecting BAME women because a lot of gender equality initiatives fail to do so.

It is also necessary to look at what being disaffected in this way does to the individual. It holds many BAME women back from achieving their full potential.

Last year, Sheffield saw the first of its kind, an International Women’s Day conference for BAME women in the North of England.

There were workshops and panel discussions where the women were shown how to break through the barriers to success in their careers, businesses and lives. They left empowered and equipped to move forward. Feedback from attendees included ‘It was powerful, empowering and inspirational’, ‘incredible day with quality speakers who gave us great take aways that we could implement straight away and feel good’, and ‘I’ve always wished for more days and events like this to be accessible so thanks’.

Events like these are important for the empowerment of BAME women in a society that does not afford them equality.

Following on from the success of last year’s conference, there will be another held on March 7 under the banner Northern Women of Colour.

The aim is to equip BAME women to be their best self, to be at their best in their health, and to create wealth so they are able to break through barriers to inequality, creating better lives for themselves, their families and communities.

Taking Action for Balance: Mastering Self, Health and Wealth, the International Women’s Day conference for BAME women in the North of England, is in Sheffield on March 7.

For details, see