Leadership and Cultural Identity

Executive Summary / Introduction

Research into the barriers faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) senior women.

As a follow up to the Race to Progress:Breaking down Barriers research released in 2011, the University of London was commissioned to conduct further research into the barriers faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) senior women focusing on leadership and identity with a particular emphasis on Bangladeshi and Pakistani women.


Key Findings

  • All respondents agreed that leadership was defined by the culture of the organisation, which in most cases was the western model of leadership i.e. White and male.
  • 90% of BAME women believed they needed to leave their culture behind to move forward in the workplace.
  • White women leaders did not see racial or ethnic identity playing any role in the notion of leadership, nor was any reference made to the need to understand other people's culture as part of being an effective leader.
  • White women spoke about the need for vision, good teams making decisions and being able to inspire others.
  • 70% of Bangladeshi/Pakistani women believed they were discriminated against by both White and Asian people in their organisation creating a dilemma between their own cultural beliefs and attempting to fit the company culture.
  • 20% of all BAME respondents below senior management stated they received help from their line managers. In stark contrast to this over 75% of White women stated their continued growth was due to having a supervisor, champion, mentor or coach.
  • 80% of BAME women believed their own cultural identity had impacted on the way they lead teams within the organisation. White women were less conscious of their identity and identified more with personality traits and leadership styles than with cultural identity.
  • Only 50% of BAME women viewed their organisation as a place for progression for BAME staff.
  • 40% of Bangladeshi/Pakistani women reported that they believe the clothes they wear for religious reasons shaped the way in which they are seen, with assumptions being made. 
  • 40% of BAME women believed having a BAME mentor at a senior level within the organisation was crucial to the success of BAME women in organisations. 

In addition to this research do read BAME Women In the UK 

The Full Story

BAME women are seen as an 'invisible group' within organisations. Too often they are not represented in any significant way on employer management programmes or bespoke development and leadership initiatives. Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experience some of the lowest levels of employment in the country.This document offers guidance on identifying the common features which are found among successful women leaders and action points for consideration to action workplace change.

Take Action

Recommendations from the research for both employers and employees.
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