The law is clear that racial discrimination should have no place in employment. Many companies have adopted policies and procedures to support this aspiration. But cause for concern persists.
Government researchers sent out 3,000 similar job applications using names recognisably either Asian, African or traditionally British. On average an applicant who appeared to be white gained a positive reply after nine attempts while the other candidates needed 16 applications. In another survey, the Runnymede Trust found that only 1% of directors were from ethnic minorities in a sample of top companies.
It is important that jobseekers ambitions are not limited by the knowledge that some employers discriminate either overtly or unconsciously. You may find these approaches helpful:
- make sure all your applications are of high quality
- look out for employers who value diversity
- utilise available support
- be aware of your legal rights
An important part of any graduate job search is locating the most suitable employers to apply to. Various factors will influence your choices, but it could be worth looking out for graduate recruiters who state their commitment to diversity.
Look at the images as well as the words on recruiters websites. At careers fairs and recruitment events you can question company representatives on their attitude to diversity. You can also look for companies that are signed up to Race for Opportunity or other schemes that support diversity in the workforce, such as the The Windsor Fellowship. The public sector generally has a good record for supporting equality and diversity.
Ask your careers service if they know of opportunities for mentoring, visits and work experience. Some employers have positive action programmes to encourage applications from students from minority backgrounds.
Employers committed to diversity can also be found through a few employment agencies who specialise in this field. Among these are Ethnic Jobsite, Asian Jobsite and Path National.
Whatever background you come from it is essential to invest time and effort into your future career from early on at university. Get involved in a range of activities; this will help potential employers to see you as someone who can fit in with their staff from a range of backgrounds.
To demonstrate that you match the full requirements of employers you will need to refer to extra-curricular activities as well as your studies. If you have a taken part in community, religious and voluntary activities related to your ethnicity, these may provide the necessary examples of what you are able to achieve while collaborating with other people. There can be a temptation to play down such involvement, but this could weaken your application.
It is always worth visiting your university careers service to discuss what to include in your job applications, or any other issues concerning your search for employment.
Many students and graduates struggle to obtain their first career role after university. Each position with a top graduate recruiter attracted an average of almost 50 applications in 2009. As the governments research mentioned above shows, racial discrimination may be to blame if your application forms get nowhere, but other factors may also be involved. Your university careers service will be able to advise you whether your job applications are up to standard.
Although racial discrimination occurs in recruitment, viable legal action against unfairness is most likely to arise from events when someone is already employed. Allegations of racial discrimination can be raised through the Employment Tribunals.
Using the legal machinery is a last resort. If you are considering making a claim, it is important to get advice (e.g. from Citizens Advice Bureau, your trade union or local law centre) and to be careful to follow the correct procedures. You must exhaust your employers grievance procedure before you take your case further.
Keep records of incidents of discrimination that you suffer in the workplace - evidence will be needed if you decide to raise the matter.