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  • Writer's pictureHaseena Farid

Broken Ladders. A brilliant and timely report

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

When the “Broken Ladders” report was published a few weeks ago, it felt that the data we'd been longing for had finally been collated. We’d been talking about conducting our own research on the experiences of women of colour in the workplace since the launch of WOCGN. So we were delighted to see that a thorough piece of work had been conducted, capturing the barriers women of colour have to overcome – and offering tangible solutions and recommendations to employers from all sectors.

For us, the report has come at the perfect time, as it vindicates the work we’ve been doing with the network. And it will help us refine our mentoring offering, and the training programme we offer companies.

"61% report changing themselves to ‘fit-in’ at work, from the language or words they use (37%), their hairstyle (26%) and even their name (22%)."


The key findings of the report are:

Institutional racism is common in all sectors and in all organisations: 75% of women of colour have experienced racism at work, with 27% having suffered racial slurs.

Forced to mould to conform: 61% report changing themselves to ‘fit in’ at work, from the language or words they use (37%), their hairstyle (26%) and even their name (22%).

Well-being is being impacted: 39% of women of colour stated their well-being had been impacted by a lack of progression compared to 28% of white women, whilst being refused promotion led to loss of motivation for 43% of women of colour.

Locked out of progression: 28% of women of colour (compared with 19% of white women) reported that a manager had blocked their progression at work, and 42% reporting being passed over for promotion despite good feedback (compared to 27% for white women).

Recruitment discrimination: 52% of women of colour experience discrimination – such as, being asked for UK qualifications or English as a first language and being asked for ethnicity information outside of monitoring processes.

28% Women of colour were statistically significantly more likely than white women to report a manager having blocked their progression at work (28%, compared with 19%). This was most common for women of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian heritage.


"If your WOC employees sense that they are not welcome and cannot bring their full selves to work, then they will likely find it difficult to advance, will not refer the company to others in their network, and will probably leave sooner than others."


A personal response

After reading the report, we felt a mix of emotions: we felt vindicated – more motivated than ever to expand our work with WOCGN – but also sad and angry. It makes for challenging reading. It’s really difficult to read how women of colour have been treated in the workplace and the impact it has had on their mental health.

So, what's next?

Clearly, employers need to do better to respect and support everyone’s individuality at work. And to understand that intersectionality can affect all stages of a woman of colour’s career. In addition to this, it's clear to us that ethnicity pay gap reporting should become mandatory for companies of the right size. It's happened for gender pay gap reporting, which has led to positive change in numerous organisations (although progress is still slow).

Some 'easy' wins

Everyone could be doing so much more to intentionally support & grow women of colour talent. Here is our starter for 10 on what employers could do:

  • Actively listen to the experiences of WOC employees via forums or focus groups.

  • Look at WOC salaries in their teams and compare them to salaries of white women and men in the team at similar levels. If there’s a discrepancy, ask for a salary adjustment.

  • Promote and support the advancement of WOC employees through sponsorship & mentoring.

  • Get creative about where they advertise their job openings (specialist recruitment agencies, WOC associations and networks, etc).

  • Alongside anti-racism training, consider providing dedicated training to their managers around understanding intersectionality, allyship and sponsorship.

  • Build and reinforce cultures of belonging. Consider holding events with senior WOC executives or senior POC leaders so that employees at their company can hear their journeys and feel inspired. Representation can have a huge positive impact on employees from underrepresented groups’ sense of belonging.

Check out Women of Colour Global Network (WOCGN) for some more great tools and tips.


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