‘BME individuals make up only 10% of the workforce and hold only 6% of top management positions’. Racial inequality within the workplace can be a key deterrent to ethnic minority candidates. Rupa Mooker, who sits on the Law Society of Scotland’s Equality and Diversity Committee, discussed the need for visible role models to inspire young people [2]. 

MGC Interview with Rupa Mooker, Business Director, People and Development at McRoberts Law Firm.

According to the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review [1], the employment rate for ethnic minorities sits at 62.8% compared with 75.6% for their white counterparts. This gap broadens even further for people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds, with employment rates falling to just 54.9%.  

When faced with statistics such as these, the significant under-representation of ethnic minorities across multiple business sectors is undeniable. The reality of this considerable ethnicity gap adds to the anxieties of many ethnic minority candidates. 

In response to this, HR departments have been tasked with filtering out racially-biased recruitment practices and considering the ways in which their businesses continue to preserve this culture of inequality. It is a businesses’ responsibility to improve its accessibility for people of all backgrounds [3]. There is much to be done within application and recruitment processes to further reach marginalised groups, starting with tackling the lack of representation at career fairs and across interview panels. 

The Importance of Visibility During Recruitment  

As Director of People and Development at Scottish Law Firm McRoberts LLP, and as a member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Equality and Diversity committee, the impact of visibility is something that Rupa has both seen and experienced first-hand. Sharing her experience, Rupa explained that lack of visibility contributes to a much larger picture that sees even successful candidates’ struggling to find role models or mentors within their career.  

“One thing I think employers need to do is show off their people. One of the things that I certainly struggled with when I was younger, and still struggle with to some extent now, was finding a visible role model.” 

“I didn’t see people who looked like me” she continued, “But, by some weird and wonderful event, I now act as a role model for those younger students. This wasn’t intentional, but I just happened to be a senior-level person who is actually visible to them.” 

Rupa Mooker, Business Director, People and Development at McRoberts Law Firm, 2020

Considering the wider issue of representation, Rupa became interested in the way that young talent is recruited at Law Firms and decided to see for herself.  

“I think people feel more comfortable when they see someone who looks like them. For example, one year I decided to go to a Law Fair because I wanted to see how it was being done and what the experience was like for the students.  I realised that I was one of just two non-white people behind the stalls at the fair.”  

“That really brought it home to me that there was a problem. When you have students of all backgrounds walking through the door and all they’re seeing is majority white, Scottish people across the careers they’re looking to, it’s obviously going to make them feel that there might not be a space for them.” 

The Need for Representation: Retention and Progression of Ethnic Minorities  

While steps towards greater representation start with creating visibility for young, aspiring applicants, it is just as important to encourage and support diversity throughout an employee’s career.  

In 2012, RARE Recruitment published an investigation titled ‘Five Years On’ [4], intent on looking into the retention of top ethnic minority graduates in the initial five years of their careers. The report asked whether employees perceived a glass ceiling within their organisations. A number of graduates agreed that the lack of role models in senior roles significantly added to their suspicion of there being a glass ceiling.  

Further to this, multiple participants declared that they felt set back by the lack of role model figures within their workplace, especially when looking for mentorship before applying for more senior positions. In situations where mentees stated that they would rather receive advice from someone similar to themselves, the lack of support was deemed as a significant barrier to advancements and success. 

It’s obvious that visibility and representation are essential to ethnic minority candidates and employees, having a considerable impact on the way they view success and progression within their careers. In the view of HR practitioners like Rupa, more must be done to create and promote a fair and inclusive work culture if we are to encourage these candidates in their desired careers.   

Sources:

[1] GOV.UK. 2017. Race In The Workplace: The Mcgregor-Smith Review. [online]  [Accessed 08/01/21]

[2] MGC Interview with Rupa Mooker, Business Director, People and Development at McRoberts Law Firm, 13/10/21

[3] Equality Act 2010. [online] [Accessed 08/01/21]

[4] Rarerecruitment.co.uk. 2012. Five Years On. [online]   [Accessed 08/01/21]

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BME individuals make up only 10% of the workforce and hold only 6% of top management positions. Racial inequality in the workplace can be a key deterrent to ethnic minority candidates. Rupa Mooker, of the Law Society of Scotland’s Equality and Diversity Committee, discussed the need for visible role models to inspire young people.

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