Survey reveals six in 10 diverse women face discrimination at work

Six in 10 Australian women of colour experience discrimination at work a survey has found, with racism, tokenism and sexism cited as the main challenges. 

The Australian survey of more than 500 women of diverse backgrounds in Australia found that 60 per cent have experienced discrimination in the workplace related to their identity. This was despite nearly two-thirds of respondents saying their workplace has a diversity and inclusion policy.

The inaugural Women of Colour in the Australian Workforce survey was conducted by Women of Colour in partnership with Murdoch University,

WoCA is Australia’s first not-for-profit organisation of its kind championing Australia’s women of colour through tailored programs, community support initiatives and advocacy work.

The survey found discrimination and racism in the workplace towards women of colour are not impacted by industry, positions or salary. Many of the respondents were white-collar workers, with 7 per cent working full-time and close to 30 per cent earning between $100,000 and $149,990.

Only 2 per cent of respondents were the head of their organisation, while 58 per cent had a Caucasian male leader, 26 per cent had Caucasian women as their leaders, with 7 per cent saying their boss was a woman of colour.

WoCA Chairwoman, Dr Pilar Kasat, said: “Our research clearly illustrates that women of colour continue to experience disproportionate discrimination and prejudices in the workplace despite the widespread rhetoric of diversity and inclusion. 

“D&I initiatives should explicitly focus on race as well as gender as both combined create specific, unique challenges for women of colour that are too easily overlooked with broad platitudes that seek to advance women’s representation without questioning which women are most likely to benefit.”

Key findings:

● 6 in 10 women of colour felt they had faced challenges in the workplace related to their identity as a woman of colour, while 21% do not believe so and the remainder answered “maybe”.
● Close to half (48%) the respondents said their organisations provides cultural/diversity training but only 41% felt it was useful, 24% did not and 34% answered “unsure”.
● While 30% believed their identity as a woman of colour was valued in the workplace, 43% did not, and the remainder answered “maybe”.
● While close to 60% said their workplace had a diversity and inclusion policy, 22% said it did not and the remainder were unsure.
● 36% felt they would be heard and respected if they were to raise issues relating to their cultural identity in the workplace, while 32% said they wouldn’t and 33% were unsure.
● Many of the women named ‘mentoring’ as a key need for future development in their careers.
● A total of 543 women of colour completed the survey, with 7% identifying as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

WoCA founder and Managing Director, Brenda Gaddi, said while the term ‘women of colour has been around for over four decades, there is still a lot of confusion around its true meaning. 

“Rather than being limited to skin colour, it is more importantly a commitment of solidarity amongst women who have been minoritised and racialised. WoCA emerges from the need to create a space that represents and speaks for the unique experiences of women of colour in contemporary Australia,” she said.

“As we stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the original and first matriarchs of this land, we welcome all to join our movement and help us create a fairer and more equitable Australia for all women of colour.”

Read the full report HERE


Read about Women on Boards' Cultural Diversity Working Group here
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