Everyone should experience equality in the workplace but unfortunately, as statistics show, not all do. If you're worried your gender, race, background or sexual orientation will affect your chances of getting a job, 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 Department for International Trade's (DIT) 2022 Gender Pay Gap (GPG) report highlights - employers are making positive changes.
Addressing recruitment challenges
Recruiting a more balanced and inclusive workforce and improving students' perceptions of their organisations is a priority for graduate employers. 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. An increasing number of employers also run diversity and unconscious bias training for staff involved in recruitment.
Employing women in STEM
The STEM sector is vital and accounts for around 18% of the UK's total workforce but a 2021 All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and British Science Association report on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM found that the STEM workforce is less diverse than the wider workforce in the UK with an overall lack of representation of Black people, women, disabled people and those from LGBTQ+ community.
The report acknowledges that while there was already considerable inequality in the STEM sector, COVID-19 made it worse with the government restriction brought in to tackle the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on minority workers.
Findings of the report suggest that the government need to take a multi-pronged approach to drive equality in the STEM workforce.
In September 2022, government data showed that women make up just over a quarter (26.9%) of the core-STEM workforce. While great strides have been made to decrease the gender gap in STEM industries, as these reports show, more still needs to be done before a victory can be claimed.
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.'
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.
A 2021 APPG research project, Creative Majority, in collaboration with Kings College London and the University of Edinburgh found that the UK's creative industries remain unrepresentative of the population as a whole with straight, able-bodied, white men dominating the sector and occupying the majority of senior creative roles. Disabled people, Black people, minoritised racial groups and women hardly get a look in in comparison.
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.
Tackling LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace
While strides are being made by employers to improve the situation for LGBTQ+ members of staff and eradicate workplace discrimination due to sexual orientation, a 2021 report from the CIPD illustrates that more needs to be done.
The Inclusion at work: Perspectives on LGBT+ working lives report found that:
- LGBT+ employees experience heightened workplace conflict - 40% of LGBT+ employees reported involvement in workplace conflict over the last 12 months in comparison to 29% of their heterosexual counterparts.
- LGBT+ workers experience job dissatisfaction and less psychological safety - while 85% of heterosexual workers reported good working relationships this dropped to 80% and 75% for LGBT+ and trans workers respectively.
- LGBT+ employees are more likely to find that work has a negative impact on their health - LGB+ and trans workers are less likely to say that work has a positive impact on their health than their heterosexual counterparts (35%, 26% and 38% respectively).
These statistics paint a fairly negative picture but a huge number of employers are prioritising LGBTQ+ equality and every year Stonewall's UK Workplace Equality Index and Global Workplace Equality Index shine a light on the top 100 most inclusive employers.
Find out more about getting a job as an LGBTQ+ graduate.
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 founded Lancaster University's 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.'
When looking for a job, check out the Social Mobility Foundation's Employer Index Report 2022, which lists the top 75 employers who implement best practice in the field of social mobility.
Find out more
- Discover more about getting a job.
- Read about diversity in the legal profession.
- Explore diversity in the UK's tech sector.