From Racism To Carrying The Burden To Educate — The Challenges Faced By Indigenous Women At Work

Seven in 10 First Nations women don't feel genuinely included and treated as equals at work, according to an Australian-first report researching the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women inside workplaces.
Released on October 26, the findings are a follow-up to last year's Gari Yala (Speak the Truth) report, which examined the workplace experiences and recommendations of over 1,000 Indigenous workers in Australia. The new report analyses original survey results by gender.
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Conducted between UTS Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, the Diversity Council of Australia and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the report found that First Nations mums and carers are the most likely group to experience discrimination at work.
Indigenous women who are carers experience a "triple jeopardy" that increases their experiences of discrimination in the workplace.
These women are more likely to feel unsafe at work, more likely to carry extra expectations and feel the burden of having to make their workplace culturally sensitive and engaged, and are less supported when they encounter racism and unfair treatment.
These findings are extremely important to acknowledge and for companies to address because, without safe and inclusive workplaces, discrimination will only continue.
The report indicated women in culturally unsafe workplaces were over 10 times more likely to be often treated unfairly at work than Indigenous women who work in culturally safe businesses. They were also approximately 20 times more likely to hear racial or ethnic slurs. Many received comments about the way they look or ‘should’ look as an Indigenous person.
"This report provides a deeper understanding of the intersection of gender and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity in the Australian workplace," said the report's author, Dr Olivia Evans, in an official statement provided to Refinery29 Australia.
"The results demonstrate the shared experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women in the workplace, but also highlight how these experiences diverge."
Dr Evans explained the results indicate "that trends of women’s disadvantage and marginalisation in the workplace are also present in the workplace experiences related to culture and identity."
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The report included seven key recommendations for companies to make workplaces more culturally safe for Indigenous women:
1. Commit to unearthing and acting on workplace truths – however uncomfortable this may be.
2. Focus on workplace readiness (cultural safety) rather than worker readiness
3. Recognise identity strain and educate non-Indigenous staff about how to interact with their Indigenous colleagues in ways that reduce this.
4. Recognise and remunerate cultural load as part of an employee’s workload
5. Consult with Indigenous staff on how to minimise cultural load while maintaining organisational activity
6. Focus on sustainable careers and career development, rather than just short-term appointments
7. Look to high-impact initiatives – those that research shows are linked to better wellbeing and retention for Indigenous staff
The roadmap to reducing the challenges faced by Indigenous women in the workplace is clear. It's time businesses understand the diverse experiences of these women at work and implement these recommendations to build workplaces where they feel culturally safe, empowered and understood.
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