Minorities in the workplace must 'know their worth' in order to be successful

This week it was revealed that no country will reach gender equality by 2030. And for minorities – closing that gap is even harder.

In December last year a major study found that black and Asian workers lose out on £3.2bn every year because of their ethnic background. There is still so much more to be done to improve working conditions and prospects for minority employees in the UK.

While a huge portion of that burden must fall on employers, businesses and government policies, careers expert Frances Trought believes that minority employees do have some power to improve their own situations.

Frances works with marginalised groups of professionals to build on empowerment, self-worth and networking as a way to tackle the systemic inequalities that exist in many working environments.

‘Right now, Dare To Be Bold is a workshop, and later on this year it will be a book,’ Frances tells Metro.co.uk.

‘The idea is to empower individuals to work within organisations effectively. The reality of people in work is that they are facing the gender pay gap, the ethnicity pay gap – and how long will it take to resolve those kinds of issues?

‘It’s great that companies are starting to get on board and to put actions in place to deal with the problems, but it is going to take too long. That’s why I am encouraging individuals to take control and really start devising their own plans of how they’re going to progress and get from A to B.’

Frances believes that communication and confidence are two of the most powerful tools to help you succeed in the workplace. By focussing on these key attributes she helps her clients to develop and grow.

‘It’s really about supporting your own journey,’ says Frances.

‘Within the workshops we do things like helping people to look at building their networks – even just speaking to people across their organisations can be incredibly useful.

‘There are so many people in the workplace who just sit within their own department and don’t engage with the rest of the organisation, so I want people to contact the right people, the BAME networks within your workplace – there will be people in those networks who have done it, who have worked their way up, and you can connect with them and learn from their journey.

‘Employees these days are multi-skilled. We are not just one-dimensional. That has to be something to keep in mind. And even if you think you don’t have lots of different skills, you do – think about your hobbies and interests – you can use these extra things that you do in your life to further your experience and your career.

‘We are living in a side-hustle culture, and it’s about making sure that you are exploring all of your skills. We are all multi-faceted and I would always encourage young people in the workplace to look beyond what they can offer just at their desks – because there is much more to all of us.

‘I find that often people will have skills that they don’t explore, simply because they are too scared. The work that I do pushes people to find the confidence to lose this fear and believe in themselves and make those latent skill-sets blossom.

‘Cultivating these additional skills and side-hustles are a kind of personal insurance policy. It means that you don’t have to be scared when there are times of uncertainty or redundancies, because you know you have another skill that you can build on.’

In addition to cultivating a side-hustle, Frances thinks it is important to make a commitment to be consistently learning. There is a misconception that education ends when we finish college or university – but Frances says successful careers are built on perpetual skill development.

‘Work is a constant learning journey,’ she explains.

‘So don’t ever just sit in your role and think that just being there is enough – it’s about continually learning. Especially during this fourth revolution where digital skills are really important.

‘It’s about relevance. You always need to make sure that your skills are relevant and have the right currency for the marketplace that you’re in. If a fantastic opportunity comes up – you want to be secure in knowing that you would have the skills to do that.

‘It’s also important to build your self esteem. If you’re in an environment where you’re not recognised, where you’re not rewarded, that will chip away at your confidence. And it can be hard to even recognise that it’s happening until you step out of that space.

‘So you have to put yourself in positive environments – by finding positive cheerleaders to surround yourself with, in your family, friends or professional networks. We all need cheerleaders to build us back up.

‘When you think that you can push through negative or toxic environments on your own – that’s when we start having issues in terms of mental health. You do need to ask for help. There are people who you can share your story with.’

Toxic work environments can be hugely debilitating for your mental health and can often feel inescapable. Frances says there are things you can do to improve your situation.

‘If you find yourself in a work environment that is toxic for you there are strategies you can employ. Sometimes it is about leaving the organisation, and sometimes it is about networking across the organisation.

‘That one department might not work for you, but you will find that most companies now are global or at least have many different departments. So it might be useful to think about moving around the organisation. It doesn’t even have to be as dramatic as leaving, there might still be opportunities for you in that company.

‘To do this effectively you have to really know your organisation inside out – find out what the other departments do ad who is working where – it could be an invaluable tool for your progression.’

So what does Frances hope to achieve with her sessions? It’s fundamentally about reclaiming control.

‘Knowing your worth and how to negotiate your value is paramount in the 21 st Century work environment,’ reads the description of the Dare To Be Bold workshop event.

‘Understanding what “the game“ is, what the rules are, and how to play it underpins your success and survival in the workplace,’ it goes on.

‘The aim is to help minorities in the workplace,’ says Frances.

‘It’s about helping people realise that it is possible to take control. That even if they are lacking the confidence themselves, that creating the right networks and connections can help you move your journey forward.

‘We can’t just sit back and wait for change – how long will we be waiting?

‘It’s great when companies are making positive changes to help and improve working situations for minority employees, but there comes a point where you also have to ask yourself – what’s your role? How can you change things for yourself?’

As well as her workshops and forthcoming book, Frances’ new company Everything D&I works to create opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds, and they are currently working with the Microsoft BAME network to develop a Diversity Festival in October 2019.

The next Dare To Be Bold workshop will take place on Thursday the 13th June in London.

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