This article was written by Polly Wardrop, Senior Analyst at the FSCB and is published in recognition of Black History Month 2022.
As Black History Month comes to an end, it is important that we continue to recognise the challenges that the financial services sector still face on workplace inclusion for Black/Black British employees.
In its 2021 Assessment of organisation culture across 24 financial services firms, the FSCB found that;
44% of Black/Black British employees (followed by 29% of Asian/Asian British employees) in financial services firms worry that the people they interact with at work may draw conclusions about their ability based on stereotypes about their identity or background, compared with just 11% among White British employees.
This finding is stark and invokes a mandate for more advance efforts in financial services firms to improve Black/Black British employee experience in the workplace.
Why is the proportion of Black/Black British employees worrying about being stereotyped so important?
Worrying about being stereotyped is more than just an experiential concern and studies show that, for the person affected, any stereotype (be that positive or negative) can cause negative emotions, impaired concentration, and under-performance.1
As such, for people to be confident and apply their full potential within the workplace, stereotype threat needs to be reduced.
What can organisations do to reduce stereotype threat?
Employees need to be aware that actions and communications can be experienced in different ways dependent on an individual’s sociocultural and historical legacies. What is not a stereotyping behaviour for one group, might well be for another. Therefore, alongside tackling any tendency to stereotype in the workplace, understanding the adverse impact that particular behaviours and communications have and how these might vary dependent on who faces these should be a priority for organisations and their employee populations.
This question on stereotypes draws on social identity and stereotype threat theories2. The question was designed by the FSCB in collaboration with Dr Aneeta Rattan, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School. In academic literature on inclusion, this concept is considered separately from feelings of being accepted and belonging, or of being oneself; each is a distinct layer or component of inclusion.
Cheryan, S., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2000). When positive stereotypes threaten intellectual performance: The psychological hazards of “model minority” status. Psychological Science, 11(5), 399–402. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00277
Group image: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 34, pp. 379–440). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(02)80009-0. Derks, B., Inzlicht, M., & Kang, S. (2008). The neuroscience of stigma and stereotype threat. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 11,163-181.
Stereotype theories refer to situations when individuals feel judged negatively because of a stereotype (having concerns that they will confirm, or be seen to confirm, negative group stereotypes), or when they have broader concerns about how the group they belong to is perceived overall.