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Black women still disadvantaged at work

Press release issued: 5 December 2002

Media release
Black women still disadvantaged at work

Racism and sexism still pervade the working lives of many minority ethnic women, according to a study by the universities of Bristol and Hertfordshire to be unveiled at a national conference this week.

The study, called A Double Disadvantage? Minority Ethic Woman in Trade Unions, reveals that many workplaces are scarred by racist harassment and bullying, low pay and isolation for female employees, the exclusion of black women from positions of power, verbal abuse of minority ethnic workers and a gulf between the rhetoric of equal opportunities and the reality of employees' lives.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the research included in-depth interviews with 55 minority ethnic women active in four trade unions - CWU (the Communication Workers' Union), NATFHE (the lecturers' union), UNISON (the public sector union) and USDAW (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers).

Professor Harriet Bradley, Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Bristol and one of the authors of the study, said: "Many women are still experiencing multiple discriminations - because of their gender, their race and their effective exclusion from organisational hierarchies.

"We heard some shocking stories, including one from a woman who had to hide in the toilets at break time to escape harassment and others from women who were bullied by managers desperate to achieve their business targets."

Co-author Geraldine Healy of the University of Hertfordshire said: "This study confirms the importance of strengthening and maintaining the momentum of recent equality initiatives and the need to give voice to black women."

The study offers a series of recommendations to promote dignity at work and ensure that equal opportunities policies are properly implemented and monitored.

The report will be launched at an ESRC-sponsored conference at the University of Bristol on December 4 called Black and South Asian Women in the Labour Market. The conference will be hosted by the University's Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship and organised in association with the Employment Studies Research Unit at the University of Hertfordshire.


The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It has a track record of producing high-quality relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC invests more than £46 million every year in social sciences research. At any time, its range of funding schemes may be supporting 2,000 researchers within academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences, thereby nurturing the researchers of tomorrow.

Research can be found at

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Copyright: 2002 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Thursday, 05-Dec-2002 10:36:01 GMT

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