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Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Empowering the Future for BAME Women

Updated: May 14

As we celebrate Women's History Month and International Women's Day it's still disappointing that while women’s rights and the equality narrative have excelled in some parts of the world, the reality is that women still face countless challenges because of their race and gender and shattering the glass ceiling is still an issue for many. 

black woman talking business

Empowering BAME Women: Are Our Skills Still Relevant?

We know Black, Asian and ethnically diverse women still continue to face significant limitations in attaining leadership roles, particularly in the highest echelons of business and where this is dangerous is they. However, in today's rapidly evolving job market, women have a golden opportunity to seize their future by proactively investing in their skill sets. Why?


With the rise of automation and technological advancements, the demand for new skills among business leaders is ever-growing.


Don’t depend on the traditional route to achieve your career goals.

By prioritising continuous development and honing skills that ensure relevance and demand, Black, Asian and ethnic minority women can confidently navigate the dynamic landscape of the ever changing job market and carve out their own paths to succeed.

Let's embrace this era of change as an opportunity to empower ourselves, emerge as leaders in our fields whilst smashing a few more glass ceilings.

So What’s the Issue?

While some progress has been made, representation at the C-suite level remains strikingly low, something the NBWN is committed to understand why and try and address those reasons.

For now, let's delve into the ongoing challenges faced by BAME women in reaching the C-suite and explores the emerging trends and opportunities for BAME women in the business world.

The Persistent Gender Pay Gap: An Ongoing Barrier for Women

"An 18-year-old woman entering the workforce today will not see pay equality in her working lifetime. At the rate the gender pay gap is closing, it will take more than 50 years to reach gender pay parity. If the rebound from COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we can’t rely on economic growth alone to produce gender equality – unless we want to wait another 50 years or more. We must design and develop policy solutions that actively address the underlying causes of the inequality that exist today." - Larice Stielow, Senior Economist, PwC UK

In today's modern society, women have made remarkable strides in various spheres, breaking barriers and proving their worth in the corporate space.

However, despite the progress, one significant challenge continues to cast a shadow on their achievements – the persistent gender pay gap.

This disparity in compensation remains a daunting obstacle for women, especially Black women, as they strive to advance in their careers, reduce the race pay gap and shatter the proverbial glass ceiling.

In a recent report from the Fawcett Society, Black, Asian and ethnic minority women are penalised twice, once by the gender pay gap and then by the ethnicity pay gap. This was made worse when women left to have children highlighted in the Ethnicity Motherhood Pay Penalty Report.

In addition, it reported that the motherhood pay penalty is the leading cause of the gender pay gap. Mothers with two children take home 26% less income than women without children, whilst fathers see a bonus – men with at least two children are paid 22% more than those without. Over the medium to long term income the mean motherhood pay penalty is around 45% compared to women who have not had children.

Not surprisingly the gender pay gap between mothers’ and fathers’ income is also significant. An average gender pay gap of 10% in hourly pay when the first baby arrives grows to about 30% by the time the child is 20.

"Starting a family can have a major impact on a woman’s career progression, her earning potential and her ability to fund her old age."

Despite the monumental advancements in gender equality, we must not forget women across the globe still find themselves earning less than their male counterparts in numerous industries and professions.

The Fawcett Society’s Broken Ladders’ study found that 75% of women of colour experienced racism in the workplace and 61% felt they had to change some aspect of themselves to fit in with the prevailing culture. Mothers, in particular, often face challenges from being excluded from after-hours socialising which is the norm in many workplaces, because of the need to return home for childcare.

We have to admit there is still much work to be done if organisations really want cultural change and best practice.

So Back To Business, Economic Equality is Good For Business.

Throughout Women's History Month and International Women's Day we can use this time to facilitate strategic focused discussions with leaders around the Gender Pay Gap and developing skills for the future. We cannot afford to let it slip from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion conversations in our networks, organisations, businesses and political platforms.

We know the wage gap is a complex issue influenced by multiple factors, including discriminatory practices, occupational segregation and societal norms that continue to perpetuate inequality.

PwC’s Women in Work Index shows that despite some progress towards gender equality in the workplace, there is still a considerable gap between employment outcomes for men and women.

Over the last decade, the average Index score for the 33 OECD countries analysed grew 9.2 points; from 56.3 in 2011 to 65.5 in 2021.

In comparison, Luxembourg, the top performer in this year’s Index, improved by more than double the OECD average over the same period from 60.4 to 78.9.

For Black, Asian and ethnic minority women, the gender pay gap takes on an even more profound dimension.

Intersectionality compounds the challenges they face, as they are often met with not only gender bias but also racial discrimination.

Is this important?

Yes. This unfortunate combination further widens the gap between their earnings and those of white men, limiting their opportunities for professional growth and advancement.

When More Women Work, Economies Grow!

Sadly, the impact of the gender pay gap on BAME women's careers cannot be understated.

Earning less than their male colleagues means they have fewer resources to invest in their education, personal development and overall financial well-being.

This disparity can hinder their ability to access opportunities for career growth, such as advanced training programmes, MBAs, leadership courses and mentorship opportunities to name a few.

Moreover, the persistent gender pay gap can undermine the morale and motivation of talented Black, Asian and ethnic minority women who aspire to reach executive positions.

Feeling undervalued and under-compensated, they might become disheartened and reluctant to aim for leadership roles.

Consequently, this lack of representation in senior positions perpetuates the cycle of inequality and diminishes the diverse perspectives needed to drive innovation and success in businesses.

Why Are We Still Talking About This?

Women in all their diversity have the right to see themselves represented at every level of business, organisations and government.

Addressing the gender pay gap requires a multi-faceted approach that involves both policymakers and employers.

Governments must implement robust legislation to ensure pay equity and eliminate discriminatory practices. Take the example of Iceland. They have  implemented some of the strongest pay equity laws globally through the Equal Pay Standard, which requires companies to prove that they provide equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.


Let’s not forget companies can play a pivotal role in fostering pay equity and combating discrimination by prioritising pay transparency; conducting regular pay audits and ensuring equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender or race. Embracing transparency in pay practices, including clear communication about pay decisions, helps to identify and address disparities. Regular pay audits enable companies to analyse pay data, rectify inequalities, and uphold fairness.


Moreover, providing equal opportunities for recruitment, promotion, and development ensures a supportive and inclusive workplace where every employee can thrive. These efforts collectively contribute to creating a more equitable and just work environment for all.

Additionally, fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity within organisations can create an environment where BAME women feel empowered and supported in their career journeys.

Encouraging mentorship and sponsorship programmes can also play a crucial role in helping Black women overcome these barriers and advance in their careers.


Tiffany R. Warren

Let me introduce you to Tiffany R. Warren, Executive VP, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Sony Music Group who is a trailblazing leader who has deftly navigated challenges throughout her illustrious career to emerge as a powerhouse in the realms of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

With over 24 years of experience in talent strategy and advocacy for diverse professionals in the creative industries, Tiffany has continuously broken barriers

(Source: Sony) and shattered stereotypes to create lasting impact.


One of Tiffany's notable accomplishments was her role as the Senior VP, Chief Diversity Officer for Omnicom Group, where she led a team focused on driving Omnicom-wide change efforts through the award-winning Omnicom People Engagement Network (OPEN).

It's here, she championed the support, advancement and retention of top-performing talent inclusive of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse women and LGBT professionals.


Further demonstrating her dedication to DE&I, Tiffany founded ADCOLOR in 2005, an initiative that has since become a beacon of progress in the creative industries. Through ADCOLOR, Tiffany has launched impactful programmes such as the ADCOLOR Conference Awards; the FUTURES programme and ADCOLOR in Music, earning widespread recognition for her commitment to driving DE&I forward.


It does not end there. Tiffany's influence extends beyond the creative industries; she also served as the 2021-2022 Chair of the National Board of Directors for the American Advertising Federation (AAF), where she spearheaded the organisation's efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.


Her commitment to driving positive change has earned her numerous accolades, including being honoured as an Advertising Age Woman to Watch, recipient of the AAF Hall of Achievement Inductee, and the European Diversity Awards' Global Diversity Champion Award, among many others.


No doubt Tiffany did face obstacles along her career journey, but she probably had a career plan, sponsors and an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion which  propelled her brand to amazing heights of success. Her story serves as an motivation to aspiring leaders everywhere, showcasing the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and purpose-driven leadership.

So Are You Prepared to Take Your Seat?

While there has been a push to get women of colour on Boards we need to understand will they make a material difference to how boards actually work especially if they are the only one?

Interestingly, in 2022, The European Union passed a regulation requiring that firms of EU member states strive towards ensure women constitute 40% of non-executive directors on the boards of publicly traded firms by 2026.

It’s objectives is “to ensure that gender balance in corporate boards of large listed EU companies is established across the EU and appointments to board positions are transparent and that candidates to board positions are assessed objectively based on their individual merits, irrespective of gender.”

So where does this leave Black, Asian and ethnic minority women who are still struggling to advance their career and access the opportunities that would catapult their success due to discrimination, microaggressions and bias?

Ultimately, breaking down the barriers posed by the gender pay gap is not just a matter of fairness and justice; it is essential for the economic prosperity and success of businesses and societies as a whole. Companies must strategically invest in women and  Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups and motivate others to understand and value women's inclusion so they can excel.

Finally in our quest for progress, let's remember the enduring importance of shattering glass ceilings, particularly for Black, Asian, and ethnic minority women. While the phrase may have lost its allure, the reality persists for many.

As the UN champions economic empowerment during Women's History Month , the Gender Pay Gap remains a formidable challenge, demanding our unwavering attention.

It's incumbent upon corporate leaders to uphold transparency and recognise the inherent value of every individual's contribution, ensuring equal pay for equal work.

During Women's History Month and International Women's Day let's seize this moment to advocate; amplify our voices and pave the way for a future where women, including those from diverse backgrounds, can thrive and lead across all levels of the corporate world.

Together, we can break through barriers and forge a more equitable and inclusive world for everyone.


If you found this interesting or inspiring, we encourage you to share it with others and spread the message of empowerment. Let's keep the conversation going and build a supportive community that fosters growth, innovation, and inclusivity.

Contact NBWN today to learn more about our initiatives, mentorship programmes and how you can contribute to fostering an inclusive corporate and business environment HERE.

Together, let's shape a future where diversity thrives, entrepreneurship flourishes, and women rise to the pinnacle of success.

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