Case for Change

There’s room for change in the graduate job market.

Internships are a typical first career step in both the charity sector and the creative industries, where the vast majority of professionals have undertaken an internship at the start of their careers. However, internships are not equitably accessible to all graduates. There is geographical inequity with the majority of internships offered across England being located in London, where there is also a far higher concentration of both work experience and graduate jobs, compared to other parts of England. This inequity isn’t just at entry-level: a disproportionate number of emerging managerial and professional jobs are located in London. All this means that London is a popular graduate destination.  


However, of those graduates that move to London, less than 10% come from the most deprived areas of the UK. With increasing rents in the capital pushing up living costs, low paid internships and entry-level roles are not an option for every graduate and some young people who secure an internship have to subsequently turn it down for financial reasons. Not accessing these early career opportunities creates sustained inequality since internships are associated with higher salaries, and for those working-class graduates who can take them up (for example because their families live near London), they act as a catalyst for social mobility. But with only a third of working-class graduates taking up internships - compared to 43% of their middle-class peers - this potential for mobility is not widely accessible. 


There’s room to change in industries.

It is now widely acknowledged that the workforce across the social sector and creative industries is not a balanced reflection of the wider population. Barriers contributing to this lack of diversity start early on with fewer young people from economically less advantaged backgrounds taking part in studies that might lead to careers in these areas. There could many reasons contributing to this but the perception of some types of work being only for certain types of people, and cost of training to take up some of those kinds of work, like architecture, is one of those reasons. The creative industries remain dominated by those with financial and social advantage and social sector leaders acknowledge that despite a commitment to diversity in the sector, actual change remains slow with most charity and social sector leaders still drawn from the same ethnic and class groups that they historically have been. 


So, why address these two sectors together? Over recent years more than ever, aspects of both sectors have increasingly merged with studios focussing on social design and impact burgeoning and the social sector applying design thinking and practice at a greater scale. There has also been an explosion of initiatives that explicitly bring together social impact goals with creative design practice. It seems that more people and organisations than ever appreciate that good design is that which contributes to a better society, and that a good society can’t be achieved without better design, and a multiplicity of identities and experiences shaping the cultural landscape.  


Room to change in organisations.

Only one in four businesses are confident that they will be able to access the highly skilled employees they will need in the future, therefore, having a bigger talent pool to draw on is a critical way to build resilient organisations. For millennials and those coming up behind them, inclusion is associated with innovation, and a commitment to fostering diversity is something they look out for when deciding where they want to work, so taking inclusion seriously matters for future-proofing your workforce- and this is just one benefit of more diverse workplaces.


Diversity promotes innovation and diverse teams are more creative, smarter and less biased. In the social sector, leaders believe that a Board which reflects the populations served can better understand its client base and help organisations to be more flexible and adaptable as the environment they work in changes.  These benefits cascade through all levels of organisation, with diversity increasing employee satisfaction, supporting employee retention and increasing productivity because people feel better able to innovate and feel more engaged in inclusive workplaces. It follows then that these more diverse organisations which are more innovative also have higher revenues. 


There are particular benefits of diverse teams for organisations that are committed to positive social change. For example, the value that employees from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the industries they join bring through offering new insider perspectives and promoting empathy with the communities that organisations want to serve. In short: in today’s complex, globally-connected and volatile environment, tackling any social challenge well is a big task, and any organisation that wants to take on that task needs to use every tool possible, including a diverse team. By supporting graduates who want to make a positive difference in the world to take up opportunities to do so, we’re helping the organisations that they join to do better work and have a bigger social impact.


Room to change in individuals.

Prejudice based on people’s socioeconomic background still has an active and material effect on careers, with those from working-class backgrounds earning around a fifth less than peers in the same jobs, and employers admitting that factors like accents affect their perception of employee competence. Awareness of this prejudice can lead to employees taking steps such as hiding their accents and concealing their backgrounds to avoid causing peers and senior colleagues to develop unhelpful perceptions of them. Such measures inevitably mean that energy that could go into doing what they need to do on the job is diverted to making sure they can fit in. If organisations don’t tackle this, then they can’t realise the full benefits of hiring diverse teams, because people won’t be themselves. 


In addition to organisations addressing these issues, graduates can be supported to realise that being themselves at work is better for them, for their performance and for their employers. So that rather than trying to hide who they are, they are empowered to decide how they want to actively apply their experiences in their work, for the benefit of all of us.

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  2. Roberts, C. (2017). The Inbetweeners: the new role of internships in the graduate labour market. IPPR.

  3. Social Mobility Commission (2019) State of the Nation 2018-19. Social Mobility in Great Britain

  4.  High Fliers (2018) The Graduate Market in 2018. High Fliers: London

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  10.  ibid 

  11.  ibid

  12. CBI/Pearson, The right combination: education and skills survey 2016, 2016

  13.  2 Hewlett, S.A. et al. (2013) ‘How diversity can drive innovation’, in Harvard Business Review.

  14. McKinsey, (2018) Delivering through diversity.

  15. NPC (2018) Walking the talk on diversity: What’s holding the charity sector back from improving its diversity?’

  16. 3 Berthoud, H., & Greene, R. D. (2001). A multi-faceted look at diversity: Why outreach is not enough. The Journal of Volunteer Administration, 19, 2-10.


  18.  Deloitte, Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?, 2013

  19. Social Mobility Commission, State of the Nation report, 2019

  20. Peninsula, 2013

  21.  Equality Group, 2019

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