Finding a BALANCE for Black Women

Written by Siobhan Mcintosh, Balance Project Manager, ELBA

Waltham Forest is one of the most deprived boroughs nationally and has been further affected by the pandemic, with it having a severe impact on jobs and economic activity. An estimated 53% of Waltham Forest residents are from a minority ethnic background1. 44% of working age women of ethnic minority background are economically inactive compared to 18% of white females in the borough2. Black women experience significantly poorer labour market outcomes in terms of earned incomes than any other racial and gender group in society. UK-born Black women are the most under-represented in the top percentile of incomes, as compared to all other women and men3. Prior to COVID-19, Waltham Forest had relatively low levels of universal credit claimants, just slightly above the London average (0.4% difference). Since lockdown began on March 23rd 2020, the number of claimants has steadily risen to 9.8% (18,195 persons)4.

Established as a pilot in April 2021, the Balance project supports unemployed Black women living in Waltham Forest with sustainable employment opportunities, work placements, assistance with setting up their own enterprise or progressing onto other positive outcomes. Many of the women on the programme found themselves unemployed or further displaced because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The project also aims to address the number of women of ethnic minority, particularly Black women who are considered economically inactive within Waltham Forest.

Balance beneficiaries are given access to a programme of bespoke and culturally competent support including:

  • Confidence building, employability skills and communication skills workshops
  • Insights into transitional jobs and careers including access to role models
  • Strength based skills assessments
  • Support developing a career plan
  • A mentor
  • Access to jobs and careers via our network of corporate partners and via our in-house recruitment agency, London Works
  • 121 recruitment advice

Given the circumstances and challenges associated with digital engagement and delivery during the COVID-19 recovery period, the Balance project has so far proven itself incredibly effective in terms of meaningful engagement, impact, and progression support for the beneficiaries in scope.

The project currently has 11 Black women fully registered, 10 of whom are actively engaged in every aspect of the programme. 100% of those fully engaged have completed strength-based skill assessments, completed training, and been matched to corporate mentors in their professional area of choice. Five of the beneficiaries have been offered paid work experience placements in their ideal career sector and are awaiting start dates. The programme has also worked closely with individuals to build confidence, increase connections, and make achievable plans. Those in need of digital equipment to help with their job searching, access to online workshops etc received donated tablets from ELBA’s Digital Divide Programme. Additionally, several employers drawn from ELBA’s corporate partnership base have supported these women on their journeys towards sustainable and commensurate careers.

“The balance program has greatly increased my confidence in every aspect especially when it comes to searching for employment. They’ve also helped by sending links to jobs that are similar to what I’m looking for and holding seminars to encourage and support me in my job search! Great programme for every black woman trying to find their next step.”

Oluwaranti, Balance beneficiary

“I find the Balance Programme very helpful. I got lots of support on a weekly basis which included calls, emails, job vacancies, reviewing of my CV and access to employment information through zoom. I am thankful for the help I received so far.”

Sudia, Balance beneficiary

There have been many highlights involved in delivery of this project so far, including emotional breakthroughs and signs of increased hope in our beneficiary group.  The 121 sessions with an experienced recruitment manager were incredibly positive for our cohort with very good feedback.  However, we believe that our most impactful event so far was a Leadership event designed to explore the challenges that Black women can face in leadership roles but highlight how they brightly they shine despite the many disparities and a common lack of recognition.

The event was deigned to inspire, motivate and encourage the beneficiaries engaged and in attendance.  We received feedback from our cohort that they were all particularly keen on hearing from Black women who are leaders in the chosen fields.  The event gave our cohort a chance to participate in an open, frank and encouraging dialogue and left them uplifted and inspired.

This is what one of our beneficiaries had to say about Black At Work women’s event:

I must say, today’s event was outstanding. All the speakers had something worthwhile to say to continue my journey. I have been taking notes and will use this to form an action plan to progress my journey going forward. Right now, I feel the power of leadership transforming in my life to set me on my way, encouraging me to take control of my life once again. I am deeply overjoyed! Thank you.”

– – Elaine, Balance beneficiary

If you would like to hear more about the work of Balance or volunteering opportunities, please email

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