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  • Writer's pictureLouis Hughes

Exploring the Findings: The Barriers that Black Gen Z Navigate

The underrepresented group navigate numerous obstacle getting into the world of work

It is no secret that the journey into the world of work is harder for black people in the UK.

We have had years of anecdotal stories around people struggling to assimilate to corporate culture or changing their appearance because it is not deemed ‘professional’ under current standards.

However, through the This is Black Gen Z report, we uncovered the statistics to back up these anecdotal stories. One of the most important things gained from this report was an insight into the barriers that black gen z, and how many there are compared to their white peers.

So what are these barriers?

They are less likely to receive feedback during the application process

During the job application process itself, black gen z are far less likely to receive feedback regarding their progress than white gen z.

This impacts them as if they do not get the opportunity, they are unable to figure out how to improve for a better chance at future opportunities. According to those interviewed in our report, it also reflects a lack of support from the company.

Providing feedback at as many steps of the application process as possible is therefore incredibly important to support your candidates.

Black Gen Z may feel the need to change their name

While the opinion around this is split, there is a definite understanding among black gen z that many recruiters may have an unconscious bias when it comes to ‘non-white’ sounding names.

Fearing racial discrimination during the application process, 22% of black gen z have changed their name on their job applications to improve their chances of success compared to only 7% of white gen z. Where black gen z have done this, they have maybe used their more ‘white-sounding’ middle names, or they have omitted or shortened African or Muslim-sounding middle or surnames. This has been done because they have had experiences in the past of microaggressions when using their full names, or because they feel that having to correct the inevitable mispronunciation of their name creates a bad first impression with the interviewee.

Even among the 78% of black gen z that choose to not to change their names, there is still a strong understanding of the potential racial discrimination or bias that can happen during the application process. However, these participants describe not changing their names for the

following reasons: they are proud of their heritage; they know employers will eventually ‘find out

about their ethnicity at later stages of the application process; or they would not want to

work for an employer who would only hire them based on a ‘white-washed’ application.

They may also feel the need to change their appearance

Many that we surveyed also expressed the need that they may need to change their appearance in order to be seen as professional in the workplace.

This was most notable in regards to being able to wear their natural hair. Interesting this was not consistent throughout the group, as there was a divide between genders. 52% of young black women and 37% of non-binary black gen z do not feel comfortable wearing their natural hair to interviews, however, 61% of black gen z men do feel comfortable.

On the other hand, 76% of their White Gen Z peers do feel comfortable wearing their natural hair.

When deciding whether or not to wear their natural hair to interviews, Black Gen Z highlighted concerns about being perceived as unprofessional or experiencing microaggressions.

One of the biggest issues with navigating barriers such as these is the emotional labour required to navigate these concerns detracts from the energy available for them to excel in the interview process.

Most notably: only 31% of Black Gen Z are able to be their authentic self in the workplace.

This statistic is startling enough standing alone, but it is even more concerning when it is compared to the 66% of white gen z that do feel comfortable.

The issues that have been present during the application process have therefore not disappeared, but may have just continued in different forms. So many young black people do not feel comfortable being themselves in the workplace, and therefore may feel the need to code switch or change their self-presentation in order to ‘fit in’ with the company culture and their colleagues.

Being unable to be your authentic self at work can affect both your performance as well as your mental health. In the report, the participants noted that not being able to be their authentic selves made them feel demotivated, stressed and anxious. They are more likely to burn out and ultimately, move on to another company.

Knowing that young black people in the UK navigate so many more barriers as they make their way into the world of work - it is more important than ever to take a look at your interview and application process and see what can be reworked.

There are a number of ways to do this, such as minimising bias throughout your recruitment process by providing unconscious bias training and taking action like name-blinding the applicants as well as letting them know. You could also provide clear feedback to all applicants and develop transparent job ads.

To get a deeper look into these recommendations, and what the next steps should be, click this link to take a look at the full report.

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