Majority of Black financial services employees experience discrimination

Reboot survey finds inappropriate jokes and racial slurs are commonplace

The financial services industry is still a long way from building inclusive working environments, with almost 80% of Black employees experiencing discrimination at work over the past year, according to the latest research from non-profit Reboot.

At the same time, more than a third would not feel comfortable reporting inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour due to negative repercussions such as greater scrutiny from their managers (cited by 49% of survey respondents), different treatment from colleagues and peers (48%) and feeling isolated or left out (41%).

In its annual survey, published as we come to the end of Black History Month, Reboot questioned 800 individuals across various ethnic groups working in the financial services space including pensions, insurance, asset management, investment banking, hedge funds, private markets and wealth management sectors.

It found Black employees are still experiencing strong discrimination in the workplace with 79% saying they had done so in 2022 – up from 71% last year.

Half of Black workers say they have experienced inappropriate jokes ‘once in a while’, but four out of 10 (37%) have been on the receiving end of racial slurs several times over the past 12 months.

See ESG Clarity’s video interview series with Reboot here

Racial discrimination is also found to be impacting career progression with half of Black people (52%) who have experienced racial discrimination having to take time off work. More than a quarter (28%) of Black people said they feel their background can have an effect on the opportunities they’re given and around a third (30%) said their background has prevented them from meeting their career expectations.

Lawrence Heming, vice-president of diversity and inclusion EMEA at Morgan Stanley, said: “It is shocking to see the level of racial discrimination faced by Black employees in 2022. More needs to be done to create an environment where people can feel comfortable speaking out against discrimination, and that’s not just for those experiencing this negative behaviour first hand. If we’re to stamp this out and build more inclusive working environments then everyone should feel comfortable speaking out against discrimination.”

Leadership support

There were a few signs of progress. The survey found 73% of Black respondents said there is strong leadership support for their organisations’ diversity and inclusion values, which is an increase on 61% from the previous year. Meanwhile, 58% feel leaders are now more comfortable tackling gender issues.

Heming added: “Over the past year we’ve seen financial companies, big and small, put a greater focus on diversity and inclusion, which is encouraging. However, while we are seeing improvements in the levels of diversity within organisations, there are still issues with creating an inclusive environment that Black employees feel welcome in.

“While it’s promising to see business leaders trying to drive change from the top, there’s still a long way to go to build workforces that celebrates our differences.”


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...