UK: Women of all colours called to help end Britain's employment apartheid Print E-mail

 London -- Sunday October 22, 2006

Asian women earn 28% less than white

High-flying role models could help the talented reach the top

By Andrew Johnson and Sophie Goodchild

Leading black and Asian professional women in Britain have called on their peers to "storm the doors" of blue chip companies, following a report this week that shows that a form of employment apartheid is rife in Britain.

Asian and black women are the lowest-paid workers in Britain, according to a report for the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University. While black men are paid less than white men, black and Asian women are paid the least of all. Some earn 28 per cent less than white women.

Saira Khan, the businesswoman who came to national prominence on the BBC reality programme The Apprentice, said yesterday that it wasn't the figures that made her angry, but that the EOC should do more to promote role models.

"I don't need a report to tell me black and Asian women are low paid," she said. "I knew that already.

Ms Khan, 36, who has just launched a baby products business, added: "Where I differ from other Asian women is that I've always tried to get into blue chip companies so I could learn and work my way up.

"If I failed an interview I didn't think it was because I'm Asian or a Muslim. Prejudice is an obstacle that has to be overcome in any work situation. One of the reasons is because [Asian women] don't have role models to live up to. So they work for family businesses with no training, no opportunities for growth. Or there is this tendency to start your own business - but you need to learn how to do it."

She added that the EOC should be promoting positive role models of what Asian women had achieved "against the odds" rather than an excuse for failure.

Her views were backed by Kawser Quamer, 26, ITV's young journalist of the year, 2005, and a reporter for Five News. She said: "Generally, most Asian and black women don't kick up a fuss, as they are not shown what they can achieve. What's important is to break down the stereotype. People think, 'I can't become a City or an investment banker.' We need to educate people that we can do it."