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Article:

Gender and ethnicity still seen as major barriers by young people

04 March 2022

Young people believe that their gender and ethnicity can be barriers to entering the world of work. These are the stark findings of research that we have recently carried out.

We surveyed 1,000 young people aged between 16 and 21 to find out what factors they thought would have an impact on the success chances of their job applications and interviews.


The main findings are outlined below

  • 38% of females believe their gender would affect their job application compared to 25% for males
  • 45% of mixed-race respondents believe their ethnicity could potentially impact job prospects
  • This figure jumps to 50% and 63% for Asian and Black respondents respectively

As Sarah Hillary, partner at BDO commented: “The fact that young people today still see their gender and ethnicity as potential barriers to entering the workplace is hugely worrying. It’s crucial that businesses wake up to the efforts needed to attract talented young people from every corner of the UK.”

The research we commissioned also looked into actions that employers could take to make their apprenticeship and training programmes more attractive and inclusive to young people.

Almost two thirds of the respondents (65%) said they would be more likely to apply to do an apprenticeship or training programme with a business that has programmes targeted specifically at people like them. This rises to a 69% for those respondents from a lower socio-economic background. This suggests that businesses need to take a proactive approach to diversity and inclusion and actively encourage applicants from under-represented groups.

Respondents from a lower socio-economic background were also more likely to apply to a company that offered online-only applications or one that paid travel expenses for in-person interviews or assessment days, compared to those from other backgrounds.

Equality, diversity and inclusion efforts in business have improved but it appears that the uncertain conditions brought on by COVID-19 has slowed progress in some areas. A separate BDO survey of 500 business leaders confirms this with almost a quarter (23%) of medium-sized businesses saing that COVID-19 pandemic has prevented them from prioritising their ED&I targets. This research serves as a stark reminder that there is still much progress and opportunities to drive forward.

Sarah Hillary concludes; “We must address the long-standing barriers in the labour market so that everyone – irrespective of gender, race or background – can fulfil their potential. Encouraging people to join a company is just the start.”

 BDO is committed to easing some of these issues and making accountancy a career that is accessible to all.

Our Black heritage programme offers a week long insight into life at BDO for students in their first year of university (or second year of a four year course).

Explore BDO is aimed at students in years 11-12 who attend state school and meet our social mobility criteria.

Visit our Early in career website for more information on all of our early in career programmes.