AAI EmployAbility secures funding to help BAME women get back into workplace

Scottish social enterprise AAI EmployAbility has secured Scottish Government funding to help improve the pay gap by helping minority ethnic women get back into the workplace following career breaks due to childcare, other care commitments or health issues.

AAI EmployAbility secures funding to help BAME women get back into workplace

 Joy Lewis and Yvette McLaren (Photo: Stewart Attwood)

AAI’s ‘Back to Work’ initiative is supported by the Scottish Government’s Women’s Returner Fund, and has the dual focus of supporting an underrepresented community while empowering organisations to improve their recruitment procedures so they can attract and retain a more diverse workforce.

The initiative will see organisations based in Scotland, from startups to SMEs host work placements, undergo tailored diversity and inclusion training, and exchange knowledge around best practice. Brewgooder, Ooni Pizza Ovens, OneBanks, Lilypads, Heartbox, Left Coast Culture, Actiph Water, Cutitronics, East Renfrewshire Council and RSPB are among the employers taking part in the programme.

As part of the programme, six of the private sector companies are taking on minority ethnic women for paid 4-week placements.

While industry research shows that more diverse workforces deliver significantly greater performance, including on profitability, the employment rate in Scotland for minority ethnic women is 20% lower than for white women, with minority ethnic women also paid correspondingly less against white counterparts.

AAI EmployAbility’s historic work in this area has focused on working with minority ethnic women, who face multiple barriers to employment, exacerbated over the last twelve months as the pandemic has had a damaging impact on the job market.

Joy Lewis, CEO, AAI EmployAbility, said: “While this is the fourth consecutive year in which we have run a diversity-focused project with the financial backing of the Scottish Government, you could argue that understanding diversity and taking steps to be truly inclusive has never been more important to our workforce. 2020 saw the pandemic rage through societies worldwide, while issues of social justice and racism came to the fore in an extraordinary and urgent fashion.

“The aim of this project is to support both underrepresented, yet incredibly talented, women and our partner employers, giving them the tools that will improve employment prospects at the end of the journey.”

Colin Hewitt, Founder and CEO of cash flow forecasting specialist Float, added: “We’re delighted to be working with AAI on their Back to Work project. This project is important to Float as we’ve become aware of the challenges in society for women who’ve had a career break, and how those barriers are amplified for many communities in Scotland. It’s fantastic to now be able to support initiatives like these and I’m looking forward to seeing Float continue to do more in the area of diversity and inclusion.”

Yvette McLaren, a participating women returner who has secured a paid 4-week placement with Float, commented: “I’ve been part of previous programmes for women returners, but have never felt they were properly tailored to my background or needs. My confidence has skyrocketed from attending these online events, getting one-to-one support from AAI, and particularly from the opportunity to interact with potential employers.

“I’ve lived in Edinburgh since 1991 and it’s reassuring to know there are businesses here really trying to take diversity seriously.”

Jamie Hepburn, minister for business, fair work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn said: “We want to ensure everyone - irrespective of gender, race or disability - has access to employment opportunities and workplace progression.”

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