Diversity and improved opportunities

Jemma Smith, Editor
June, 2021

If you're worried that you'll be overlooked for graduate jobs due to your gender, race or background, read about the organisations looking to ensure a level playing field for everyone

The Equality Act 2010 was brought in to protect the rights of all individuals. When applied to recruitment, it's illegal to offer someone a job based on their characteristics, as appointments should be made on merit.

While there's still a long way to go in improving diversity in the workplace - as the BBC's Gender Pay Gap Report 2020 highlights - employers are making positive changes.

Addressing recruitment challenges

Recruiting a more balanced workforce and improving students' perceptions of their organisations is a priority for graduate employers.

The Institute of Student Employers' (ISE) Inside Student Recruitment 2020 report revealed that recruiters are particularly keen to attract women/men (depending on the industry), ethnic minorities, those from low socio-economic backgrounds and those with disabilities.

To improve recruitment diversity, employers have changed the universities they visit, tailored marketing materials and methods and used targeted social media advertising. More than half of employers (55%) have also run diversity and unconscious bias training for staff involved in recruitment.

Employing women in STEM

The latest government data shows that in 2020 there were more than one million women in core-STEM occupations - up from just 350,000 ten years ago. While great strides have been made to decrease the gender gap in STEM industries, more still needs to be done before a victory can be claimed.

For example, updated workforce statistics from the WISE Campaign show that women are still underrepresented in engineering and technology.

Kay Hussain, CEO of WISE, explains 'Many STEM sectors have been traditionally male-dominated and therefore find it harder to attract female talent. We need more visible female role models across all STEM sectors to inspire more women to apply.

'While there are practical and cultural issues to address, we are seeing more organisations recognising the need to modernise their practices to attract the diverse talent they need to remain competitive.'

'It's very much a chicken and egg situation where more women are needed in the workforce to encourage women into the workforce,' says Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of the Women's Engineering Society (WES). 'There’s the stereotype that engineering is hard and dirty and not for women. We aim to explain that engineering is more about problem solving, teamwork, collaboration and creativity. We also convey that there are many engineering jobs that can be done in an office and showcase female engineering role models.'

Learn more about opportunities for women in engineering and gain an insight into sector such as engineering and manufacturing, science and pharmaceuticals and IT.

Filling the creative gap

The UK screen industries employ a higher proportion of workers with a white ethnic background than the UK economy as a whole, illustrating that the sector faces significant inclusion and diversity issues.

With a relatively low proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds making up the industry's workforce, Creative Access is working to ensure the media better reflects the society it represents.

Chief executive and co-founder of Creative Access, Josie Dobrin explains 'The media cannot reflect society, if society is not reflected in the media. The creative industries are often the lens through which we see the world. A more diverse workforce is capable of providing a wider range of such perspectives, and is better equipped to ensure these perspectives are represented authentically.

'There are a number of reasons for this lack of representation, including a lack of role models and a lack of knowledge about the types of opportunities and access routes available. There's also the prevailing issue of unpaid internships, which effectively exclude those whose socio-economic backgrounds or current circumstances don't allow them to work for free,' she explains. Find out more about internships and virtual work experience.

To help get your foot in the door, Josie suggests that you write a blog, develop your portfolio, get involved in university radio or organise events for a club or society.

Gain an insight into the creative arts and design sector.

Improving social mobility

Graduates who were privately educated and attended Russell Group universities are more likely to land professional jobs than those educated at state schools who attended non-Russell Group institutions. Put simply - the better off do better, but this is something that the 93% Club is passionate about changing.

As their name suggests, they represent the interests of state-schooled students who account for 93% of the population but face inequality when it comes to obtaining opportunities.

Jamie Rogers, final year student at Lancaster University founded the institutions branch of the 93% Club. He says that at its core, social mobility is about fairness. 'It's about ensuring that everyone is given equal opportunities to succeed in life, irrespective of upbringing. This means enabling students with the professional connections, skills and know-how to excel in an extremely tough graduate job market.

'The 93% Club's primary aims are to connect, upskill and empower all of its members across 45 UK universities. Students are connected to employers, professionals and careers coaches, which allows them to gain insight into sectors that may interest them.

'Students can get involved by joining a club where one already exists. To get involved on a national level, you can join the press and PR team or the employability week team. If you're at a university without a 93% Club then it may be worth founding one yourself.'

Lucie Millington, a second year law student at Lancaster highlights the benefits of joining your institutions 93% Club. 

'The 93% Club has created such a strong sense of community for me and this has helped me build confidence in my abilities and has presented me with opportunities that otherwise, I never would have had access too. For example, I have worked with magic-circle law firms, big-four accounting firms, international consulting firms and global charities. I have made friends for life all around the country and I can't imagine my time at university without it.'

When looking for a job, check out the Social Mobility Foundation's Employer Index Report 2020, which lists the top 75 employers who implement best practice in the field of social mobility.

Find out more

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