The lesson from the jobseeker rejected for wearing a headscarf

The extent of race inequality in the UK has been exposed in a new Government report, which has found ‘entrenched’ disparities between life outcomes across different ethnicities.

One female jobseeker, Shazia Khan from Birmingham, told the BBC how race inequality has affected her life chances. She says that she was only successful in a job interview after she removed her headscarf, which she wears for religious reasons.

"I was interviewed for six jobs that I didn't get,” she explains. "You know when you've done well in an interview and I just thought to myself, 'what am I doing wrong?'"

Khan said that her friends suggested she should try attending an interview without her headscarf. She gave it a go. "After one of the first interviews I was offered the job. I was gobsmacked,” she told the BBC. "It may just be a coincidence, but it made me realise that people can discriminate.

"I felt really sad realising that people are treated differently because of the colour you are, or your name. That people have difficulty getting a job because of this. I felt uncomfortable and it made me more paranoid."

This coincides with the report, commissioned by Prime Minister, Theresa May, which found that ethnic minority candidates are twice as likely to struggle to find work in the UK than their British white counterparts. The audit, which has been published on a new Ethnicity Facts and Figures website, found that unemployment rate for black, Asian and minority ethnic people (8%) is nearly double that of white British adults (4.6%), with a larger gap in the North (13.6%) than the South (9%) – The Independent reports.

A study from the Institute for the Study of Labour – located in Germany, found that when they sent out two CVs with the same credentials, both containing a headshot, one with a woman wearing a headscarf, and the other without, the candidate with the headscarf was four times less likely to receive interest. The researchers stated: “This result implies that the candidate with the headscarf had to send four and a half times as many applications as an identical applicant with a German name and no headscarf to receive the same number of call-backs for interview. This suggests that there is discrimination against female migrants – particularly if they wear a headscarf.”

The alarming disparities have prompted the Government and industry leaders to encourage employers to drive change. Nick Peacock, Managing Director at Ascendant Recruitment, told us how recruiters can help battle the issue from within the sector: “This is part of a wider problem that is common in the recruitment industry – the issue of general closed-mindedness. Talent comes in many different sizes, and candidates should be judged on their merits, irrespective of race, gender, age or education. As recruiters, we need to be aware of this and train ourselves to be resistant to any form of bias.”

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