Here are some illuminating statistics. Last year, 57 per cent of all UK graduates were women — and a significant minority of all UK graduates (19.5 per cent) came from minority ethnic backgrounds. Yet, says Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Graduate Prospects, the careers advice and job and course opportunities service, some employers unconsciously have a bias towards recruiting white, male, middle-class graduates — which doesn't represent the diversity of society.

That said, he reveals, savvy businesses – particularly well-resourced ones with well-developed graduate schemes — are working hard to improve the diversity of their workforce. “They are increasingly aware that if their staff doesn't look like their client base, then they have a problem,” says Ball. “In addition, especially since the recession, businesses are aware that they need to revitalise their creativity and innovation, and they want to bring in new ways of thinking. And if they only look at a narrow group (of graduate applicants), then they are in danger of getting a narrow range of ideas.

“Plus, ultimately, in a recovering graduate labour market, businesses know that if they only recruit white middle class men then they are missing talented people who can contribute to their business. A healthy business has a diverse workforce.”


So how does a business ensure its graduate recruitment process is diverse? “By being aware of the issue in the first place,” says Ball. “In a recession, companies can be very cautious and avoid taking what they see as risks — and one of the areas they avoid taking risks in is recruitment, which leads to them recruiting in their own 'image'. That's not always healthy for a business, particularly one with a wide range of interests and portfolios.” Now the economy is in recovery, employers can feel more confident and embrace change.

Employers should also study graduate data. “An employer might look at their workforce and see that 60 per cent of it is male and think that's OK,” says Ball. “But if figures show that the majority of graduates in their industry are women, then that's a problem.”