Breaking the barriers: Black women in senior positions in the workplace

Back to all Motions

2019 National Black Members' Conference
6 September 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference believes that Black women are still hugely under-represented in senior roles at work. Research has shown that positions of power in every sector of society are dominated by men.

Research conducted by Operation Black Vote and the Guardian newspaper found that only 3.5% of Black people are at the top of UK’s leading 1000 plus organisations, compared with 12.9% in the general population. This under-representation is more profound when broken down into gender, with less than a quarter of those positions being held by Black women.

In a review of race in the workplace, it was found that Black people are much more likely to be overqualified for their jobs than their white counterparts, who often advance up the ladder of promotion with ease. In other words, Black talent is not necessarily lacking in abundance but it is seriously lacking in recognition and support.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), one in eight of the working age population is from a Black background, yet they occupy only one in sixteen of top management positions.

Women still face cultural and social barriers to career progression, including a lack of formal support or organisational policies to help them progress and to tackle harmful attitudes and gender stereotyping.

Existing barriers to women achieving senior positions also include: perceptions about women’s potential; an absence of role models; careers information and guidance; career breaks; caring responsibilities; full time working being the existing norm; a lack of talent spotting; and a lack of mentoring.

This is even more so for Black women who often face the double barrier of the gender glass ceiling and racial discrimination. This is particularly evident when looking at management roles.

The Gender and Race Benchmark 2014 found that Black women are the least likely group to hold executive or non-executive directorship positions.

Statistics show that Black women are twice as likely as white women to be leaders in their community – leading a youth initiative, heading up a community or charity organisation. Black women are also more likely to be the primary breadwinners in their families but their experience outside of work falls off the radar of ‘management at work’.

There is a serious issue with the lack of Black women representation in senior roles and the evidence is clear that Black people especially Black women continue to be under-represented at senior levels at work.

Conference calls upon the National Black Members’ Committee to work with the National Women’s Committee and other relevant service groups where appropriate to:

1)Raise employers’ awareness of the disproportionately low number of Black women in senior positions, and encourage employers to address this situation with suitable mentoring and training to enable Black women to reach their full potential at their workplace;

2)Utilise the challenging racism in the workplace toolkit to examine employers recruitment and retention policies and highlight this disparity, thereby enabling UNISON representatives to challenge blatant discrimination;

3)Work with UNISON Learning and Organising Services to educate and support Black women members to increase their confidence to access the structures within their workplace in order to make progress in their career;

4)Encourage the service groups to develop guidance and policies on supporting Black women in the workplace and to place equalities at the heart of the bargaining agenda.