Almost two-thirds of Black LGBTQ Gen Z people feel unable to be their authentic selves at work

This is an image of two young Black people. The person on the left is a woman and she has long black hair. She is wearing a green top with a multicoloured scarf. The person on the right is male presenting, with a hat on and a floral shirt. He is holding a dog.

New research reveals that Black Gen Z employees still face racism and hurdles around being their authentic selves in the workplace.

Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, currently make up about 15 per cent of the population in the UK. The eldest Gen Z cohorts are now well into their professional careers and shaping what work looks like as they progress.

According to the most recent census, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation next to Generation Alpha (those born in the last decade) in England and Wales. Of the Gen Z population, 75 per cent are white, 12 per cent are Asian, six per cent are Black, a further 5 per cent are mixed race and three per cent belong to another ethnic group.

To highlight the experience of Black Gen Z employees, TapIn, a social agency reshaping how employers engage with diverse talent, has just published the second edition of its ThisIsBlackGenZ report.

The 2023 follow-up report surveyed over 2,300 Black Gen Z employees, taking an in-depth look into the Black Gen Z experience and sharing their career motivations to help provide employers with the tools to adequately support and nurture young Black talent.

Despite there being 2.4 million people in the Black community in England and Wales (four per cent of the population), 58 per cent of Black 18-24 year-olds and 52 per cent of 25-34 year-olds have experienced racism at work in the last five years.

You may like to watch

Commenting on the report, Tiana Holgate, head of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging at TapIn, says: “It’s saddening that over half of Black 18-24-year-olds have experienced racism at work in the last five years.”

“Equality within the workplace should be the bare minimum, and with so many young Black people still struggling to have fair opportunity and fit in within the workplace, it’s clear that businesses are still not quite hitting the mark on building supportive workforces where all can thrive.”

Code-switching and other barriers to finding and sustaining work

The report revealed that Black Gen Z workers place a high value on authenticity at work, with 85 per cent saying it is key to their job satisfaction. Yet nearly half (47 per cent) of Black Gen Z workers, 63 per cent of Black LGBTQ Gen Z workers, and 91 per cent of Black Gen Z trans workers feel unable to be authentic in the workplace.

To “fit in” during the recruitment process and then employment, many Black Gen Z are ‘code-switching’ – changing their behaviour or mannerisms to conform to different cultural norms.

Rachel Ayeh-Datey, a qualitative researcher at TapIn and a co-author of the report says that code-switching manifests through Black Gen Z “changing their style of speech, appearance, behaviour or expression to prioritise the comfort of others in the workplace.”

Over 85 per cent of those with African heritage admitted that they changed their names or softened their accents during the job application process to enhance the possibility of recruitment success.

Ayeh-Datey tells PinkNews: “In Black LGBTQ+ individuals specifically, this could look like changing their mannerisms to not appear “too gay/queer” and dulling down their typical modes of expression like their clothing to seem more professional during the recruitment process.”

Inclusion, salary and flexible working

When looking into what motivates Black Gen Z at work, the survey found that 42 per cent of Black people ranked diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) as the most important value they look out for when searching for a job. Similarly, 75 per cent of Black Gen Z professionals said that they would remain at a company with active Employee Resource Groups (ERG) or staff affinity networks.

Gen Z employees are primarily motivated by salary, with 65 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women stating it as their sole priority when choosing a career. Training and development opportunities are the second most important factor for Black Gen Z employees at 32 per cent, while White Gen Z employees prefer bonus or commission schemes.

Contrary to the popular notion that younger generations prefer a fully remote working environment, the report showcases a clear inclination towards hybrid or back-to-office models by Gen Z professionals, with 100 per cent remote working discovered as the generation’s least favourite way of working.

Flexible working was considered the most popular working style, with 52 per cent of Black Gen Z workers preferring flexible working styles, whereas only a quarter of White Gen Z workers opted for this preference.

Building cultures of belonging for Black Gen Z employees

Following the findings, TapIn has compiled a list of 11 recommendations to support employers in their journey to build more diverse, equitable workforces. They’ve split the recommendations into three categories: attract, recruit and retain.

The report recommends that for businesses to attract Black Gen Z talent, they should consider bringing their values to life along with building partnerships and collaborations with diverse community organisations.

When it comes to recruiting Black Gen Z talent, the report suggests that employers need to ensure that accessibility is embedded into the entire work experience and “pulling apart how the application process works.”

To help with retention, the report suggests focusing on anti-discrimination, allyship and inclusive leadership training rather than unconscious bias training. The report says that unconscious bias training is “unlikely to directly uproot systems of inequality.”

Ayeh-Datey also stresses the value of investing in, building and growing ERGs to foster belonging, but cautions employers to be “aware of the intersectionality of your employees and providing the right support so that ERG’s are open and inclusive for the communities they aim to serve.”

“We can build on what we learned”

TapIn’s report and the research conducted remains the largest research into the experiences of Black Gen Z in Britain. Black Gen Z, including LGBTQ+ cohorts are an integral part of the entire Gen Z experience, yet still remain underrepresented and undersupported.

“Collecting the largest quantitative dataset to support the anecdotal evidence of the Black Gen Z experience was groundbreaking and as an organisation we are very proud of the necessary insights we shared,” says Milimo Banji, founder of TapIn.

“It’s now time to leverage that knowledge and share our findings so we can build on what we learned.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.