Women of colour overlooked in public services and policymaking, say MPs

By agency reporter
June 6, 2018

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sex Equality, supported by Young Women’s Trust and the Fawcett Society, shows that black and ethnic minority women are overlooked by mental health and employment support services, which are failing to meet their needs. This is due to a lack of data on their experiences and exclusion from policymaking.  

MPs are calling for service-users to be involved in designing services to ensure they are more responsive to the needs and experiences of diverse groups – especially when it comes to mental health and employment support.

The law must also change to factor in the ‘multiple discrimination’ that women face, lawmakers said. At present, a black woman can only bring a case that she has been discriminated against on one of those two characteristics – not the combination of the two.

The Invisible Women report also says that gender pay gap reporting has the potential to drive real change. However, the lack of intersectionality hides many women’s experiences. Factors such as disability, age, race, faith, ethnicity, sexuality and location impact on the size of the pay gap women face but current reporting does not take this into account. Driving change for all women requires a more nuanced approach.

Jess Phillips, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sex Equality said:  “Millions of women are invisible in Westminster’s evidence and thinking. Unless we see women in all their diversity, we will make the wrong policy decisions and will not achieve equality. We need data, policy, the law and services to recognise women’s diverse experiences and work for women.”

Effia (her name has been changed), 27 from London, said: "As a black woman, I was bullied at work but told that I had a severe attitude problem when I tried to stand up for myself. It had a really bad impact on my mental health.

“After that, I was unemployed for four months and making an effort to return to a job. I am degree-educated and wanted to be confident again to chase ambition in the future. But I definitely felt judged when accessing the job centre. I was seen as a lazy black woman who wanted to rely on benefits. The assessment process terrified me and I applied for any job to escape it. In the end, I found counselling more helpful than the job centre."

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton said: “Young women are struggling to get by due to low pay, job insecurity and debt. This is particularly acute for young women of colour and disabled young women, who face bigger pay gaps and more often report workplace discrimination. Yet mental health and employment support services are letting many down.

“Much more needs to be done to improve young women’s prospects. This requires politicians and policymakers to listen to women – especially those who experience multiple discrimination or have complex needs – and make sure they are not invisible in our policies and services.

“Without action, today’s young women face a lifetime of inequality.”

Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers said: "We have to start seeing the reality and complexity of women's identities and women's lives.  We repeatedly overlook the women who are in the most need and who experience the greatest disadvantage. That has to change.

"Reforming our equality law to address multiple discrimination and improving data collection are just the first step. What we need is a transformation in how we see women."

* Read the report Invisible Women here

* Young Women's Trust https://www.youngwomenstrust.org/

*The Fawcett Society https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/Pages/News/Category/news?Take=24

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