Diversity schemes: Beneficial or not?

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As global movements against racial, gender and sexual discrimination took off, employers started introducing a variety of inclusive projects. Georgina Peacock explores the debate surrounding diversity schemes. 

A study by Debut Careers in 2019 showed that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students submitted 45% more applications before securing a job post-graduation than their white peers. This could be as a result of perceived ethnicity barriers or simply being unsuccessful. Moreover, a review by the Equality and Human Rights Commission discovered that Black graduates earn on average 23.1% less than white graduates. 

In acknowledging these differences within the past few years, companies have started to offer schemes exclusive to BAME students, as well as addressing other gaps with regards to diversity. In acknowledging these differences within the past few years, companies have started to offer schemes exclusive to BAME students, as well as addressing other gaps with regards to diversity. 

The purpose of a diversity scheme is to bring equity through training and development opportunities and to give individuals experience which they may be lacking in comparison to their peers. Some internships even allow a student to be fast tracked to the final stage of a graduate-programme application.

Some schemes exclusively for students who meet BAME criteria amongst others:

  • Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship
  • Tesco’s Business Diversity Internship
  • Sky Diversity Programmes
  • Inclusive Graduates, who partner with businesses to run insight days

BAME workers are significantly underrepresented in, for example, the construction industry and employers aren’t going to great lengths to change that. If diversity needs to be improved, shouldn’t these schemes be implemented across sectors which have a prevalent diversity gap? Additionally, these schemes may increase diversity at graduate level, but this doesn’t necessarily transfer to senior management positions, suggesting more needs to be done in recruitment and development itself.  

From a company perspective, having a diverse workforce brings commercial benefits. Studies consistently show that a diverse workforce performs better. With a diverse number of groups  being represented, additional ideas can be shared and challenged. 

Ethically, many companies also acknowledge that investing in a diverse workforce is simply the right thing to do. However, it can be argued that these schemes are just for show, especially given recent events with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement where there has been frustration surrounding large companies using the movement as a marketing ploy.

Another perspective comes from students themselves. Firstly, BAME students expressing frustration at the idea of being singled out, considering these schemes as ‘positive discrimination’. 

The assumption that individuals are not skilled enough to be offered a role through the ‘mainstream’ process also exists. If companies treated employees equally by eliminating bias, perhaps there would be no need for diversity schemes.

Secondly, students who don’t sit in this category feel hindered by not having access to these opportunities. “I can’t get a job because I’m white” is a statement that we hear more often now amongst students  and graduates. These feelings come as diversity and inclusion becomes more of a focus for companies and perhaps the true meaning is gradually lost. 

Despite frustrations, diversity schemes show companies acknowledging and holding themselves accountable to diversity and inclusion, which can be seen as a positive step forward. The question, however, still remains: do these schemes make a real difference with promoting diversity?

Photo Credit: Deputy