A comprehensive study conducted by The Young Foundation, on behalf of 12 prominent professional membership and regulatory bodies, has revealed persisting challenges faced by professionals in their workplaces.

Titled “Beyond Buzzwords,” the report sheds light on the scepticism surrounding the effectiveness of current equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives, warning that without urgent action, recent progress may unravel.

The research, incorporating feedback from over 7,000 professionals spanning diverse sectors such as accountancy, engineering, law, and public relations, exposed alarming figures.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) reported encountering ‘discriminatory or exclusionary’ behaviour, with an equally concerning 73 percent experiencing barriers to career progression since the beginning of 2019.

These challenges were exacerbated among individuals with multiple marginalised characteristics.

Higher standards are needed

Lead researcher Alice Bell emphasised the need for greater commitment and higher standards from organisations, stating, “For many years, the professions have shown real commitment in taking action on EDI. Yet we need to drive greater change, with organisations pushing forward higher standards.”

The research pinpointed key concerns, including scepticism regarding the translation of ambitious EDI goals into tangible actions, challenging access routes for individuals from minority backgrounds, and the prevalence of exclusion from informal networks and developmental opportunities.

Despite these challenges, the report highlighted that tailored solutions could make a significant impact. Successful initiatives included normalising flexible working, creating accessible learning resources, implementing targeted development programs, and addressing biases in hiring processes.

To instigate change, the report proposes that professional and regulatory bodies play a pivotal role in raising the bar for accountable, ethical professions concerning EDI. The recommendations encompass various stakeholders, including policymakers, employers, and individual professionals.

Multi-stakeholder commitments

Helen Goulden OBE, Chief Executive of The Young Foundation, emphasised the need for multi-stakeholder commitments, stating, “Real progress relies on individuals, employers, and policymakers enacting change within their spheres of influence.”

Ann Francke OBE, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, echoed the sentiment, stressing the urgent need for change. “Inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a trend; it’s essential for organisations to thrive in today’s diverse and interconnected world. The sooner we realise we all stand to benefit, the better,” she said.

The report concludes that achieving systemic change requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders, emphasising the crucial role of professional and regulatory bodies in driving sustained, systems-wide change.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.