Press release

17 Jun 2021 London, GB

Focused action needed by UK businesses to break down employment barriers facing young Black talent, says EY

EY survey of over 1,000 young Black people reveals many experience multiple barriers when entering employment, from education through to finding jobs and progressing in their careers.

Press contact
Rupa Sudra Bharadva

Manager, Media Relations, Ernst & Young LLP

Communications professional for EY UK. Mum of two, works part-time. Passionate about supporting women in business.

  • EY survey of over 1,000 young Black people reveals many experience multiple barriers when entering employment, from education through to finding jobs and progressing in their careers.
  • Only 13% of young Black people believe that their ethnicity does not present any barriers to starting a career, regardless of the sector.
  • 26% say their ethnicity has had the greatest negative impact on their ability to access promotion and progression at work.

London, Thursday 17 June 2021: Young Black people in the UK can face multiple barriers when entering the jobs market and progressing their careers, according to new research commissioned by EY and the EY Foundation and conducted by market research agency Savanta ComRes.

Over 24% of young Black people surveyed say they have experienced racism in the workplace, while 55% of young Black people in a job say they have experienced racism when interacting with customers, clients and others external to the company where they work.

The research captures the experiences of more than 1,000 young Black people, aged 16 – 30, some of whom are working (55%) and some who are currently in education (39%). The findings show that focused action is urgently required by UK businesses to help make workplaces fairer and equitable for young Black people throughout their careers.

While 92% of those surveyed said they have career goals, only 13% felt their ethnicity did not present any barriers to starting a career, regardless of job sector. In addition, 26% of those surveyed who have a job said their ethnicity has had the greatest negative impact on their ability to access promotion and progression at work. The survey found that, amongst those who were promoted, young Black women (49%) were less likely to receive feedback compared to 72% of Black men.

The research shows that challenges for young Black people can often begin before education has been completed: 31% of those surveyed felt their ethnicity had hindered their ability to progress at school.

Hywel Ball, EY’s UK Chair, says: “The survey reveals an unacceptable yet sadly familiar picture — despite a strong desire to succeed, many young Black people continue to face employment barriers and lack the opportunities open to others. This can happen both at school and in workplaces across the UK, where many young Black people feel that the way promotions are awarded and how work is allocated can limit their progression.

“While recent findings from the Parker Review show that ethnic minority representation amongst FTSE 350 Boards is improving, our survey shows that there is still a long way to go when it comes to the lived experiences of young Black talent. Targeted, focused action is needed across all businesses to create fairer, more inclusive workplaces across the UK.”

Businesses must act, now

EY’s Getting In and Getting On report was undertaken to better understand the experiences of young Black people in the workplace and was commissioned as part of a series of anti-racism commitments announced by EY and the EY Foundation last summer. These commitments included a target for 15% of EY’s Partners from ethnic minorities to be Black by 2025, and to offer at least 30% of work experience places on EY’s Smart Futures and Our Futures programmes to Black young people for the next five years. EY has also committed to offering entry to its school leaver pathways to at least 30% of young Black alumni of the Smart Futures and Our Futures programmes for the next five years.

The research was commissioned alongside the EY Foundation, which works with young people in the UK from low-income backgrounds to realise their career ambitions.

The Getting In and Getting On report says that urgent, focused action is needed by all businesses to make themselves more accessible to young Black people and sets out four key recommendations. These are to:

  1. Increase inclusion across UK business and measure outcomes to ensure they are fully inclusive of Black people. Place a greater focus on building an inclusive culture that is conducive to retaining talent, and explain the actions in place to identify, understand and then remove barriers for Black candidates and employees;
  2. Improve access by providing young Black people, currently in education, with better information about the career opportunities open to them. Use technology to show different roles and the functions for each. Also, use school visits and company websites to share stories of young people from different backgrounds and their career journeys;
  3. Commit to and enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards racism, experienced within firms, or from third parties, such as customers; and develop an understanding of the damaging effects of overt racism, as well as covert racism (in the form of repeated microaggressions) through organisation-wide training. Create a workplace culture where people feel safe to report inappropriate behaviour, particularly racism, internally and externally;
  4. Tackle barriers to entry, particularly within the law, accounting, banking and finance sectors, where CEOs should take a visible leadership position and be a strong voice for change, internally and externally. For example, by having a reverse mentor from the Black community, establishing C-suite sponsors, hosting learning sessions for the C-suite, and ensuring race equality features in internal communications and employee engagement messaging. CEOs should collaborate in their sector to establish a Race Leadership Forum, where appropriate by leveraging existing forums, such as the Professional Services Group, CBI’s Change the Race Ratio and the Black British Network.

Lynne Peabody, EY Foundation’s acting CEO, comments: “Employers must respond to these findings by taking bold and ambitious action. It is the responsibility of senior leaders across all sectors of the economy to act decisively and remove the barriers young Black people face to succeeding in the workplace. Though individual policies will be crucial, it must be part of wider organisational culture change, with the voice of young Black people sitting at the heart of how employers tackle the issues identified in this report.” 

Lord Karan Bilimoria, CBI President and Chair of Change the Race Ratio, said: “Backing young people’s progression regardless of their ethnicity or background means listening to their lived experiences and companies moving quickly from awareness to action. This survey data is a stark reminder firms must do more to break down barriers for young Black people and open up opportunities at work. 

“Nurturing talented future leaders through mentoring, eradicating workplace discrimination and greater collaboration between business and school leaders are all crucial in supporting our next generation plot their path to success.”

Concluding, Hywel Ball adds: “EY commissioned this report as part of the anti-racism commitments we made last summer, to help better understand the lived experiences of young Black talent across UK business and to inform the actions we are taking as a firm. It’s clear that we, and others, must do more to accelerate the pace of change.

“Beyond individual interventions, our focus will be on workplace culture and fostering an environment where differences are embraced rather than seen as a barrier to overcome. We all have an important part to play.”

EY and EY Foundation’s Getting In and Getting On report can be found here.