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Britain:Does the Glass Ceiling exist?

By Pratik Dattani
February 28 2013




Ask Rosa Parks circa December 1955 whether she thought a Glass Ceiling existed in the US, and the answer would be plain. Ask Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela or other inspirational leaders, and the answer would be plain. But the world has made great strides in the last 50 years to become a more tolerant, progressive and meritocratic society.

Yet in Britain, debate consistently rages amongst policymakers and the media about the Glass Ceiling. Or perhaps a Glass Ceiling. The context is often one of: too few women on company boards, lack of equal pay between men and women, and discrimination based on ethnicity or sexual orientation. While a lot of research, including most recently by Experian, the credit check agency, has been done on the actual or perceived gender-related Glass Ceiling, comparatively little work has been done amongst professionals in ethnic minorities.

It’s a subject that really motivates me. Immigrants in the Britain are hard working and contribute disproportionately to the economic, social and cultural fabric of Britain. In fact, just last week, the Government announced that three-quarters of all new jobs in Britain in the last 15 years were taken up by immigrants. If a Glass Ceiling does exist, has it dissipated over time? Does it apply to the private and public sectors equally? What are its foundations? Is it different for Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians?

I run an organisation called the City Hindus Network (CHN), and we are exploring just that question. The CHN is a membership organisation that provides thousands of professionals from South Asia in London opportunities for networking, personal development and mentoring, and charitable opportunities.

We want to explore the dependencies of the Glass Ceiling notion on perception, challenge historical stereotypes and aim to provide some recommendations for fellow professionals and policy makers. It is aimed at ethnic minority professionals across the country, and is we hope it to set a milestone within the diversity research space in Britain.

A number of multinationals and politicians have already voiced their support for us, which we are very encouraged about.

Daniel Winterfeldt, Head of International Capital Markets at CMS Cameron McKenna said: “CMS supports projects that carry out valuable research to help create a more inclusive working culture for professionals in the City. The CHN is an ideal organisation to conduct this survey”.

Ek Samra, Chairman of the UBS Cultural Awareness Network said: “UBS is dedicated to providing a diverse and inclusive environment for all its employees and supports research that gives further insight into this subject”.

Professor Richard Tomlins, Visiting Professor of Race, Diversity and Housing, Coventry University said: “The City is the powerhouse of the UK economy and it is timely to consider whether there are any barriers to communities in contributing to its performance and achieving the excellence that they offer.”

Lord Dolar Popat said: “Inevitably there will still be issues faced by people and those absolutely need tackling, but we have made so much progress over the past 30 years to smash through the glass ceiling, and I look forward to reading the findings of the study.”

The anonymous survey will be available for respondents at until early April 2013. The findings of the survey will be presented at the House of Commons in mid-May 2013 with a cross-party panel of MPs and Lords with a view to engage further in public policy on diversity.

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About the Author: Pratik Dattani is the Chairman of the CHN, and  is Managing Director at an economic and strategy consulting firm that offers economic and regulatory policy advice and social investment impact analysis that focusses on India and Pakistan.


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