Minority Interests

The Words That Can Change The Way You Think About Work

January 1, 2014 No Comments

I started this project because I became empowered by the information I was learning and realised that it could benefit people like you. I spoke to my cousin about a recent incident at his workplace and I explained my understanding of events using some of the concepts from my research. During our discussion he said “That happens all the time, I didn’t even know that there was a word for that.”

Academics speak in a very particular way that isn’t always accessible to the rest of the world. Part of it is to exclude people, but most of it is because of the need to be precise about what is being discussed. So many of the situations that we encounter in our everyday lives have been researched and theorised. One of the things that I am doing on this blog is introducing you to useful words and concepts that may help you to better articulate some of your experiences in the workplace.

Getting a Smartphone & Working Harder

Suppose your office gives you a smart phone for use as part of your job. Professor Michael Bittman and his colleagues refer to this as work extending technology because it allows you to work outside of regular office hours and in locations other than your office. Over the past few years, it feels as if everyone I know has to work increasingly harder for the same money. Professor Frances Green refers to this as work intensification fuelled by an increased use of information technology since the 1990’s.

Using these theoretical terms becomes really useful when the circumstances being discussed are more complex than you think and close to home:

Getting paid less because of the colour of your skin

When I started my career as an accountant, some people told me that there was a good chance that I would be paid less simply because I was black. Research suggests that minority ethnic groups suffer an ethnic penalty in the workplace. They are paid less than their white counterparts and this cannot be explained by education, experience or other relevant factors. Think of it as the cost of being ethnic in the workplace. This doesn’t mean that two people doing the same job, one black and one white will receive two different salaries. Some of the ethnic penalty can be explained by occupational segregation.

Choosing a lower paying job

Occupational segregation occurs when minority ethnic groups enter low paid occupations while their white counterparts enter higher paying occupations. This suggests that the ethnic penalty occurs between different occupations, e.g. Architects and cleaners rather than within a single occupation like Architecture. It’s not as simple as getting paid less because someone is black or asian, as minorities we often choose to enter different occupations.  In their government report, Professor Anthony Heath of Oxford University and Dr Si Yi Cheung of Cardiff University found that minority groups such as Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Black Africans continued to experience greater concentration in routine work, lower hourly earnings and higher unemployment rates than other British people.

Our thoughts are influenced by our language.

Developing our language helps us to develop our thoughts on these issues and leads us towards asking smarter questions and seeking useful answers. For me it created links between things that I knew were happening but never really gave much thought as to why. It’s not always as simple as saying, “it’s cos I’m black”, there may be a combination of issues that by reading this blog you will be better equipped to understand.

Minority ethnic professionals are playing a different game in the workplace and if your understanding of the workplace is limited, then you will only have limited resources to make a difference to yourself and others. This isn’t about whining about problems or pointing the finger of blame. It’s about recognising issues, understanding issues and then addressing the issues. Some things are bigger than you and can’t be fixed by you alone. I want to help you to shine a light on the things that you can fix, so that you can make a positive change in your life.

What difference would it make to you to be able to think more precisely about your experiences in the workplace?

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