Professionals Report Widespread Workplace Discrimination and Exclusionary Behaviour

New findings from The Young Foundation, conducted in collaboration with 12 professional membership and regulatory bodies, including ACCA, shed light on pervasive discriminatory and exclusionary workplace practices despite increasing efforts towards equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives.

The report, titled “Beyond Buzzwords,” underscores the urgent need for genuine change within professional environments to prevent recent progress from unravelling.

Survey Reveals Disturbing Workplace Realities

Drawing insights from over 7,000 professionals across various sectors, such as accountancy, engineering, and law, the research reveals alarming statistics. Nearly three-quarters of respondents reported facing barriers to career advancement (73%) or encountering discriminatory and exclusionary behaviour in their workplaces (72%). These negative experiences were even more pronounced among individuals with multiple marginalised characteristics.

Lead researcher Alice Bell emphasised the importance of professional and regulatory bodies as catalysts for change, urging organisations to elevate their standards and drive tangible progress on EDI through training, guidelines, and member support.

Identifying Critical Areas for Improvement

Key concerns highlighted in the research include widespread scepticism regarding the translation of ambitious EDI goals into meaningful actions, with many professionals perceiving rhetoric and box-ticking exercises as ineffective. Access and entry routes into professions remain challenging for individuals from minority backgrounds due to systemic barriers related to qualification affordability, accessibility issues, and a lack of role models.

Moreover, professionals feel excluded from informal networks and developmental opportunities, leading over half (53%) to consider leaving their employer or profession due to EDI concerns.

However, the report identifies tailored solutions that can yield significant impacts, such as normalising flexible working arrangements, providing accessible learning resources, implementing targeted development programs, and mitigating biases in hiring practices.

Strategies for Driving Lasting Transformation

To drive meaningful change, the report proposes that professional and regulatory bodies establish higher standards for EDI accountability and ethics. It also offers recommendations for policymakers, employers, and individual professionals to address EDI challenges effectively.

Helen Goulden OBE, Chief Executive of The Young Foundation, emphasised the importance of collective action from individuals, employers, policymakers, and professional bodies to enact systemic change and foster inclusive work environments.

Gemma Gathercole, strategic engagement lead at ACCA, reiterated the organisation’s commitment to addressing EDI issues and supporting members and professionals in tackling workplace inequalities.

Ann Francke OBE, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, echoed the sentiment, emphasising the imperative for organisations to lead by example, collaborate effectively, and drive meaningful change to create inclusive workplaces conducive to success in today’s diverse world.

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