‘Call to action’ amid discrimination in financial services

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‘Call to action’ amid discrimination in financial services
BySally Hickey

Seven in ten ethnic minorities in financial services firms have experienced discrimination at work in the past year, a new report has said.

The second edition of the Race to Equality in UK Financial Services report by Reboot, released today (December 5), showed that 82 per cent of ethnic minorities have experienced unwelcome comments based on their background this year and some businesses are not dealing with this effectively.

A quarter of respondents, 800 people working in financial services roles with a minimum of ten years’ experience, said they believed that racial jokes are still tolerated in their workplaces.

Furthermore, 47 per cent said they have raised issues around discrimination with their HR team, and three-quarters said they did not think the department was effective dealing with these issues.

Those who experienced discrimination said they also came under greater scrutiny with mangers and 48 per cent said colleagues treated them differently after speaking up.

Director of investment stewardship research at Morningstar, Lindsey Stewart, said in the current “war for talent”, many financial services firms are still turning up unarmed. 

“Creating an inclusive culture is a key talent retention factor, a strategic advantage, and a governance imperative,” she said.

Oliver Bilal, head of EMEA distribution at Invesco, said the industry should take these findings very seriously.

“An equal opportunity to progress is not only morally right, but a cornerstone of good business practice and key to creating a dynamic, productive workplace,” he said.

He added that while there may be agreement on the nature of the problem, it will only be solved through action and accountability.

“In our view, equality of opportunity should be embedded in the institutional structure of an organisation, which is why we advocate tying diversity and inclusion progress to the annual performance goals of senior leaders and their teams.”

The research found this is having a direct impact on businesses with almost half (49 per cent) of those respondents experiencing discrimination over the last year stating they had to take time off work and a similar number have had to seek counselling to help recover from all the negativity in the workplace (56 per cent).

Co-chairperson, race and ethnicity workstream at Diversity Project, Dimple Mistry, said: “There is a call to action for all HR professionals to come together, educate themselves and create safe channels for staff to approach them, and for matters to be taken seriously when raised.  

“I recognise that this is a journey that does not stop, this requires us all, no matter what your background, to come together to consciously work towards creating a truly inclusive industry and workplace cultures that enable professionals from an ethnically diverse background to feel a strong sense of belonging and thrive wherever they are.”