According to a new report, close to two-thirds of professionals have faced times where they believed their ability for career progression was limited due to their background.

New research by Hays indicates a pressing need for employers to address the perceived barriers to career progression, whether this is during the recruitment process or once professionals are settled within their roles.

Almost two-thirds of employees (64 per cent) reported occasions where they have felt their chances for career progression have been limited because of their background or an identifying factor such as their age (55 per cent), their ethnicity or nationality (37 per cent) or their gender or gender identity (31 per cent).

This was similarly seen among over three-fifths (61 per cent) of jobseekers who believed their chances of being selected for a job have been limited for the same reasons, an increase from 50 per cent last year.

Around half of professionals (51 per cent) also do not believe people from all backgrounds will have an equal opportunity to succeed in their organisation.

Yvonne Smyth, Group Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Hays stated that it is clear that “awareness alone isn’t enough and more needs to be done”, especially given that “many employers are faced with skills shortages and over half of professionals say they will only consider applying to an organisation with a public commitment to ED&I”.

Despite this, the study further showed that many companies – while talking about the importance of diversity initiatives – failed to actually deliver.

Two-thirds (62 per cent) of professionals reported that their employer actively talks about the importance of ED&I in the workplace but under half (48 per cent) believe their company combines discussion with noticeable action.

To enhance this, Hays argues that it is vital for organisations to communicate to their employees about any ED&I improvements that are being made.

Morgan Lobb, CEO of Verdica, stated:

The best approach to tackling the issue of diversity in your organisation is to put a good internal communications plan in place with clear objectives, outlining why it will benefit everyone.

Individuals can be threatened by change and difference, so if their workplace is going to change, they need to feel it will be positive to them.

Other recommendations laid out in the report to improve diversity and inclusion include:

  • Getting a better understanding of the data – Identifying gaps in your workforce by collecting demographic diversity data from current employees and job applicants is vital to ensuring the success of ED&I initiatives
  • Expanding and promoting your flexible working opportunities – For some groups of people, the ability to work flexibly is critical and offering flexible working can help employers attract a more diverse range of candidates
  • Support your team with training – This could include training for managers and more training for employees

*This research has been outlined in the Hays “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Report 2021” which surveyed 3,180 employers and employees from across the UK between 15th July–5th August 2021.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.