The world of diversity and inclusion is full of gaps. The two biggest are found in boardrooms and on wage slips – women, for example, are both less well-paid than men and less likely to be directors. But problems aren’t only to be found among the higher-ups.
Women made up 53.8% of graduates in 2015, but only 42.2% of graduate hires, according to a study of over a hundred major employers tracking gender by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).
Before you start thumping the unconscious bias bible, the problem doesn’t actually appear to be one of white middle class men hiring in their own image. Female applicants were in fact slightly more likely to get the job than their male peers – if they applied.
The issue is that women are less likely to apply. It could be that they are deterred by a relative lack of confidence, but it seems more likely to be to do with perceptions of the careers on offer (particularly in STEM sectors). Essentially, women are thinking that this job ‘isn’t for people like me’.
Business can’t just shrug its shoulders at this. If it wants to attract the broadest range of talent, it needs to go out of its way to show potential employees that it’s inclusive.
It’s heartening that most of the employers questioned seemed to talk the talk on equality – 59.9% said gender was a high priority and 73.8% had a diversity and inclusion strategy for graduates – but to make a real change you need to walk the walk.
For graduates to stop thinking an industry has a ‘champagne and hookers’, alpha-male culture (here’s looking at you the financial sector), the industry has to root out that culture.
This involves making an effort to hire more women, yes, but just as crucially making the effort to develop their careers equally once they’re in. If half the executives in a sector are women, then female graduates are much less likely to be put off than they would be if none of the executives were women.
There is no easy fix for this – it will take time. But the very fact that diversity and inclusion are firmly on the c-suite radar gives hope that things are at least moving in the right direction.
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