When I think of a Minority Interest I think of people that have an interest in the success of an organisation, but not the authority to exert much influence over it. In accounting, a Minority Interest refers to shareholders that own less than 50% of a company. This defining characteristic indicates the limited influence that this minority has over the organisation as a whole. In contrast, the majority shareholder has a controlling interest and is therefore able to determine company policy.
I chose Minority Interests as a name because of my financial background, the way it highlights the limited power of minority groups and because I thought it was a pretty cool play on words.
Minority Ethnic Professional
At the heart of everything I talk about here is the workplace experience of minority ethnic professionals. I had trouble finding the words minority ethnic professional in the same sentence during my google search (See image).
Not enough is being done to help this group of intelligent people. Minority ethnic professionals have an interest in creating success in the workplace but often lack the influence to shape their experience within it. When I say professional, I am talking about highly skilled occupations like accountants, lawyers and doctors. When I say ethnicity, this can lead to problems. Ethnicity is a contested term that often raises more questions than it answers: “What’s your ethnicity if you were born in India and spent the past twenty years in Ireland?” “What if you have a parent from Nigeria, a parent from Spain and were raised in London?”
In his book, Ethnicity, Professor Steve Fenton of the University of Bristol defined it as the collective identity of individuals that share a common ancestry, culture and language. Ethnicity is a social construct, it has meaning because society gives it meaning. It is a form of reality that is produced and reproduced by social actors like you and me. Race is often used interchangeably with ethnicity but I prefer to use the term ethnicity: In his book “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack”, Professor Paul Gilroy of Kings College London argues that the term race suggests colonial domination and political oppression. Race has been used to organise people into different groups and create a social hierarchy. We are still living with its legacy today. Broadly speaking, race has been used to refer to physical differences in people and ethnicity has been used to refer to social differences. My interest is in how these social differences can impact the careers of minority ethnic professionals.
Not all Ethnic experience is the same
Everyone has ethnicity but I find that attention is drawn to a person’s ethnicity when the conversation is about a minority group, particularly when their ethnicity is clearly visible. History is full of examples of minority ethnic groups being stigmatised and mistreated, the attitude of the majority towards them may change over time but some groups experience change faster than others. Books have been written about how Irish, Italians and Polish migrant workers in America moved from being oppressed groups to being allowed to “become white”. This signified greater acceptance in society. We’ve seen progress but the experience of African and Latin Americans isn’t quite the same is it.
In January 2014, immigration restrictions were lifted that allowed Romanians and Bulgarians to live and work in the UK. In anticipation of these changes there was a media frenzy, with many arguing that an unmitigated flood of Eastern Europeans would cripple the UK economy. The flood of people never arrived, for those that did arrive to a hostile reception; any prejudice they experience may not last forever. Ethnicity is complicated, and the experiences in the workplace can vary depending on the environment, the organisation and of course the individual.
An Individual Focus
There seems to be a lot support for organisations to promote diversity but not enough is being done to support individuals. There are some charities and organisations doing some great work to help minority ethnic groups enter the professions and I want to connect with them in order to serve you better. Instead of waiting for years for the public to accept you in the workplace, I think it’s a better idea to work harder and smarter to improve your career.
If you know of any organisations that I should be speaking with, leave a comment with their details or forward them a link to this page