The Adopt an Intern initiative launches in Glasgow where Olumide will speak along with employability minister Jamie Hepburn.

Scots supermodel Eunice Olumide is giving her backing to an ethnic employment drive to promote return-to-work opportunities for minority women in Scotland.

The Adopt an Intern (AAI) initiative launches in Glasgow on Friday, where Olumide will speak along with Scottish employability minister Jamie Hepburn.

The scheme will then move to Edinburgh and Aberdeen, featuring free employability and “returnship” opportunities from firms such as Diageo and Highland Spring.

Since it was set up in 2009, AAI has organised 1,400 paid internships, including returnships for those coming back to work after a career break.

AAI’s work to date has focused mainly on the young graduate population, but the partnership with Olumide – named an MBE earlier this year in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her services to broadcasting, the arts and charity – will further efforts to assist those aged 30 and over who are returning to work.

Across all of AAI’s participants, 13.5% classify themselves as from Black or Minority Ethnic (BME) background.

Born in Edinburgh from a Nigerian background, Olumide is said to have a “passionate” interest in the gender pay divide and employment opportunities for ethnic minorities.

She has a portfolio of businesses involved in art, publishing, film and television, plus her own clothing and accessories range using materials sourced from poor parts of Africa.

As part of the new initiative, which is backed by the Scottish Government, AAI will partner with community interest company Radiant and Brighter.

Founded by Michael and Pheona Matovu in 2013, Radiant and Brighter has gained a reputation for successfully working with BME communities to integrate people into the workplace.

Joy Lewis, chief executive of AAI, said minorities face a range of issues such as cultural barriers, unconscious bias, discrimination, religious issues, foreign qualifications and uncertainty about their right to work. As such, the BME community is under-represented in workplaces throughout Scotland.

“Allied to this, women returning to work are clearly disadvantaged,” Lewis added. “At 22 the pay gap is minimal but, four to five years later it has already begun to stretch and then widens throughout the first decade.

“By 29 there is a definite divide as 30 to 40-year-olds have their families. When they try and return, their sector often cannot accommodate a need for part-time working so they go to another sector where their skills are under-utilised.”

For minority ethnic women, the disadvantages experienced in term of both gender and race “intersect” to create extra barriers, she said.

“Our workshops will allow participants to examine strategies that support personal and work-based confidence and resilience when dealing with issues related to extended absence,” said Lewis.

“They will examine the wider contextual issues that impact on BME women in the workplace, how to develop goal-oriented behaviour, and are ultimately geared towards a successful return to meaningful employment.”

Originally published in, 23 Oct 2017 

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