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Why do ethnic minorities find it difficult to succeed in the corporate world?

By Garry Gupta, Chair, Migrant Careers


Ethnic minorities can face unique challenges in the corporate world that make it difficult for them to succeed. Very often we hear that someone has worked hard to reach the middle level management and they are not able to break the glass ceiling.


It is important to acknowledge these issues and be aware of them, as it is only then, can we work towards removing them from the workplace. There are many reasons, why this happens, but with my experience, I can break them into some manageable chunks.



Bias and Discrimination: One of the primary reasons why ethnic minorities may find it challenging to succeed in the corporate world is bias and discrimination. Research has shown that ethnic minorities may face bias and discrimination in hiring, promotions, and performance evaluations, which can limit their opportunities for advancement.


Often this is never exposed and is the underbelly of corporate decision-making. It is the duty of the board of governance, to ensure, such cases don’t happen and merit rules above all else.


Lack of Diversity and Inclusion: Many corporate environments lack diversity and inclusion, which can make it challenging for ethnic minorities to feel welcome and valued. When there is a lack of diversity, ethnic minorities may struggle to find mentors or role models who can provide support and guidance, and they may feel isolated or marginalised.


A lot of Kiwi companies are now acknowledging this and already have diversity goals in place. This needs to be supported by all organisations, so that they can come up to the ‘real world’ matrix.


Cultural Differences: Ethnic minorities may also face cultural differences in the workplace that can impact their success. For example, cultural differences in communication styles or expectations around work-life balance can make it challenging to fit in or be successful in the corporate environment.

It is important for the employer and the employee to sit together and work out the flexibility around this. For example, a lot of people from the Muslim community may be keeping fasts during the Ramadaan period. They will need a change in break times, to accommodate their prayers and eating schedule. It is important for the management to be aware of such cultural needs.


Structural Barriers: There may be structural barriers in the corporate world that make it difficult for ethnic minorities to succeed. For example, there may be a lack of flexibility around working hours or family-friendly policies that make it difficult for ethnic minorities who have caregiving responsibilities to balance work and home life.


Limited Access to Opportunities: Ethnic minorities may also have limited access to opportunities for advancement, such as leadership development programs or high-profile projects. This can be due to bias or discrimination, but it can also be due to a lack of exposure or networking opportunities that can help individuals advance their careers. Both the employees and management need to work towards helping in the upskilling process and removing this barrier.


In conclusion, ethnic minorities may face a range of challenges in the corporate world that make it difficult for them to succeed. Addressing bias and discrimination, promoting diversity and inclusion, and providing access to opportunities can help overcome these challenges and create a more equitable and inclusive corporate environment.


New Zealand companies, like others in the world, need to address these issues, to be able to create a more successful company and a more motivated workplace.

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