When we surveyed our members for Bright Network’s 2017/18 annual research report, What do the brightest graduates want?, we asked about the worst careers advice they had ever received. One member reported she was told “As a black female, it’s going to be extremely hard for you to be a successful lawyer”.
This was just one of many pieces of terrible advice that had been given to our BME members and highlighted the importance of supporting them with initiatives such as our first ever Black Heritage Future Leaders event, held on Tuesday 24th October 2017. We partnered with six employers who are leaders on diversity and inclusion, to network with students, provide careers advice and ask their own questions before the event.
We also took the opportunity to get a snapshot of our BME members’ views, to see how these might have changed over the course of this year.
Our 2017/18 annual research report found that our BME members perceived their top career barriers to be:
- Lack of network/contacts
- Lack of relevant experience
- Absence of role models from a similar background
- Lack of sector/career knowledge
- My ethnicity
These were still key concerns for our BME members, over half of whom felt they’d been held back in their career search by not having a network, lacking knowledge about which opportunities were available, discrimination based on their name and their worries about how they might be perceived. Those who didn’t feel they’d been held back personally, still often mentioned negative experiences they’d heard from other people. Comments included:
- "I believe my racial background has severely hindered me in a recruitment process, despite my academic achievements."
- "There have been times where I think assumptions are made about my achievements/accolades, as if they weren't expected of me."
- "I have felt that my background has hindered me because I have not been aware of the various opportunities available to me. This has made recruitment processes far less familiar to me than others who were perhaps better prepared from an earlier point."
- "I have found that often people from disadvantaged backgrounds are not aware that certain opportunities are even an option for them due to not having the right guidance early."
- "As a black female, I am constantly second guessing whether or not I will be judged based on the merits of my CV or my appearance and whatever unconscious bias an employee might have."
- "I feel like there can be a lot of judgement based on the background information or simply your name in an application."
- "I know people that are worried to put their real names on applications because it would give away where they are from."
- "Perhaps subconsciously. Firms generally look for a profile, and this can include appearance. Likewise, differences in background can prevent opportunities to connect with an interviewer."
All of these BME members reported that they now consider the employer's approach to diversity and inclusion when they are making applications, with their responses showing that they look into it in detail. This underlines the importance of highlighting the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives in order to hire and retain a high calibre, diverse workforce.