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Report: Working women of colour experience discrimination despite D&I policies

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A recent nationwide survey of more than 500 women of colour in Australia found that 60% have experienced discrimination in the workplace related to their identity as a woman of colour, despite having a Diversity & Inclusion policy in place.

Conducted by Women of Colour Australia (WoCA) in partnership with Murdoch University, the inaugural Women of Colour in the Australian Workforce survey was unveiled over the weekend, at the official virtual launch event. 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 revealed that 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 70% working full-time and close to 30% earning between $100,000 – $149,990.

Of the 60% who have faced discrimination in the workplace related to their identity as a woman of colour, the top challenges were racism, tokenism, sexism and a combination of these. Interestingly, only 2% of the respondents said they were their organisation’s leader while 58% had white males as leaders, 26% had white women as their leaders, with 7% saying their leader was a woman of colour.

While the issues surrounding workplace gender equality are well documented, there is very little data on the intersection between women’s experience at work and their cultural background and ethnicity.

Dr Pilar Kasat, Chairwoman of WoCA commented, “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”.

Brenda Gaddi, Founder and Managing Director of WoCA said, “The term Women of Colour has been around for over four decades, yet 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.

“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,” Gaddi said.

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