Black voices: racism in early careers

Oct 20, 2021 | Diversity

Ekene Ukemenam’s story of transitioning from university to work.

ISE’s Black Careers Matter report highlights the challenges young Black heritage people face entering predominantly White workplaces.

Ekene Ukemenam, a 26-year-old Masters graduate engineer from London, feels fortunate to have had coaching and guidance from Windsor Fellowship to help his transition into the STEM industry but has been little prepared for the covert racism he has faced.  

“I began my career by being down-selected through a programme run by a non-profit organisation that was designed to put underrepresented individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds into STEM careers.”

“My experience [of job hunting] was pleasant, though after hearing the experience of other black graduates, I realise that I was fortunate.”

“I feel the experience could have been better by companies making their diversity and inclusion data visible as this would’ve been useful to ascertain which companies are not only conscious of the barriers Black graduates face, but those which are actively doing something to address it.”

“Since starting my career as a summer intern, I have always been conscious of my ethnicity. I sometimes face difficulties finding common ground with my colleagues, and have felt the need to conform to behaviors that will make me more easily understood.” 

“I feel adequately prepared to deal with overt racism, however as covert racism is much harder to detect, and far more common, I don’t feel confident that I can deal with the effects of this. I think STEM organisations need to invest in training their staff and recruiters on how to identify inherent bias, micro-aggression, and other signs that are indicative of covert racism.”

“I believe if employees were incentivised to experience and understand different cultures this would help develop a more inclusive environment where differences are celebrated rather than met with hostility.”

“Employee Resource Groups for example offer some useful tools and education for employees from minority ethnic backgrounds. I do feel that the support could be better, particularly during times where black people speak out against the institutional racism that they experience.”

“The Black Lives Matter protests are an example of this, I didn’t feel that the companies black STEM graduates work for did enough to reassure, and support their black employees during that difficult time.” 

Read more about the experiences of young Black people entering the workforce as well as the latest data in ISE’s Black Careers Matter

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