Developing a Business or a Career in Business

Workplace inequalities from the perspectives of employers and employees

1. Introduction

Studying business is a very popular avenue for UK school leavers to take, with many students opting to take a journey into the world of business due to interests or prospective future financial benefits. By studying a business course, you will be introduced to the business world and how it operates, you will learn how to manage people and become a key team player, and you will also develop your business knowledge to the level that is required.

Developing your skills and knowledge in a way that is suited to the business industry can lead to many positive things in the future, including careers such as business adviser, business analyst, business development manager, accountant, project manager and maybe even the owner of your own business. With these roles just a handful of career paths you could take, studying business could mean that you will never be short of business or job opportunities, setting yourself up for a long and successful career!

However, like most things in life, graduating from university is not all sunshine and roses, and there are sometimes obstacles that you may not be aware exist. In this article, we discuss some of the inequalities and obstacles that UK university students face when graduating and looking for a job, as well as what the future holds for business graduates in particular and how you can best prepare yourself or your company.

Business students celebrating their graduation

2. Workplace Inequalities faced by UK Graduates

When looking to begin a successful career following graduation from university, many UK graduates face obstacles before they even begin. These obstacles appear in the form of inequalities in the workplace that have been recognisable right through society for many years and are unfortunately still felt by so many today. These workplace inequalities can often prevent many UK graduates from starting their dream career, and so we feel it is important for you to be aware of the inequalities and the obstacles that you may face, and how it may affect your career.

2.1 UK Gender Pay Gap

In the UK, we have seen a gender pay gap in favour of men for far too long, and this is something that both women and men are campaigning against throughout the UK. However, according to figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the UK gender pay gap begins much sooner than many may think. The figures suggest that just 15 months after graduating, men were earning an average of 10% more in comparison to women, highlighting a clear workplace inequality.

The figures do show that of those that were in full-time paid employment following their first degree graduation in 2018, most individuals had a salary of between £24,000 and £27,000. However, when looking at the higher earners, it is clear to see that the gender pay gap in the UK is much more prominent. Whilst 28% of men earned more than £30,000 15 months after graduating, the same could be said for just 16% of women, and 6% of men earned over £39,000, in comparison to 3% of women.

2.2 BAME Graduate Discrimination

Whilst the figures show that 81% of graduates were either employed or were in unpaid work, and 76% of those in highly skilled jobs in the UK, there was yet another inequality that was clear to see. Over 60% of white university graduates were employed on a full-time basis over a year after they left university, but the same could only be said for half of black university graduates. As well as this, 7% of Asian graduates and 6% of black graduates were unemployed more than a year after they graduated, in comparison to just 3% of white graduates.

These figures highlight another clear workplace inequality that black, Asian, and other minority ethnic graduates face, once again before their career has even begun. The simple fact that graduates in these ethnic groups were more likely to be unemployed in comparison to white graduates is staggering, and clearly indicates that there is much more work to be done in tackling this inequality.

2.3 Disabled and Vulnerable Adults

In a recent report, An Unequal Crisis, conducted by Citizens Advice, it was identified that vulnerable adults and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be made redundant, in comparison to the rest of the UK. Following a survey of 6000 people, 17% of the working population are said to be facing redundancy, with disabled and vulnerable adults the worst hit.

The survey found that 27% of disabled people are facing redundancy, with that figure increasing to 37% for those whose disability has a significant impact on their daily activities, whilst almost 50% of those extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus are also facing redundancy. The report also indicated that 39% of people with caring responsibilities, such as for children or vulnerable adults, are facing redundancy, as well as 31% of people with children under 18, in comparison to just 7% of people who don’t have children under 18.

This suggests that for graduates with disabilities, vulnerabilities or caring responsibilities, jobs may be harder to come by, whilst redundancy is a real possibility for those already in employment.

3. What the Future holds for Business Graduates

Following a report by The Telegraph, it has been found that more than half of the available graduate jobs no longer exist, and just 5% of young university leavers this year have been able to find employment. So, what does the future really hold for business graduates, and why should you consider studying business or other related subjects?

Well, the report highlighted that, of the 2010-11 cohort surveyed, the best value postgraduate degree is a master’s in Business Administration, with an average salary of more than £57,000 five years after graduating. As well as this, both business and economics graduates are amongst some of the highest earners as part of the survey, across multiple UK locations. This suggests that, while jobs may be harder to secure following the events of 2020, studying business or related subjects may just be the key to securing a high-paid job in the coming years.

However, securing a high-paid job is not the only thing that graduating from a university business course could be useful for. As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, many people across the UK, including students and recent graduates, have taken it upon themselves to start their own business. Some of the best placed people to do this are of course business graduates, as they have spent the last few years of their life studying the world of business, developing their knowledge that could be used to start a successful business. Whilst running your own business may not have ever been something you saw yourself doing, there may never be a better time than now to get started.

If you are somebody that has considered starting your own business or are in the process of doing so, but are worried about how you may finance your new venture, it is certainly worth looking into becoming a freelance business writer. If you hold a 2:1 degree or higher in a business subject, you could earn an extra income that you could put towards starting your own business. As a freelance academic business writer, you will work from home and have all the flexibility that you require, whilst earning some fantastic money to build your new business.

As we have discussed, there are two avenues that you may wish to take as a business graduate, including developing a career for yourself in the business industry and starting your own business. For those that are looking to go into employment, below we will go into greater detail about how you can develop a successful career in business, overcoming the obstacles and workplace inequalities that many of you may face. For anybody looking to start their own business or are ready to expand a current business further, we discuss how you as an employer can help to promote workplace equality and diversity.

Business graduate deciding on a career in business or starting a business

4. How to develop a Successful Career in Business

With more and more students attending university each year, combined with the many obstacles you may come up against and the sheer lack of jobs available, entry-level jobs for business graduates are more competitive than ever before. So, with that in mind, it is essential that you are as prepared as you possibly can be, to have a long and successful career, whether that be in employment or working for yourself. Our top tips for how to prepare for a successful career in business are:

4.1 Never stop Learning

One way to have a successful career in the business industry is to never stop learning, never stop gathering information that can help you to do your job. You should always stay up to date with industry best practices, the latest technology and any trends within the industry, to ensure that your work is as good as it can be and that you never get left behind at any point in your career. Some of the best ways to do this are to subscribe to relevant publications and to take refresher courses when necessary.

4.2 Be open to Expanding your Expertise

Allowing yourself to expand your expertise into different areas of business could be the difference between kick-starting your dream career and finding a job that you hate. By expanding your expertise and developing your knowledge of multiple areas of business, you instantly become more appealing to employers, and it may just mean that you get the job ahead of somebody else!

4.3 Consider different Career Paths

A great way to ensure that you can have a long and successful business career is to identify different career paths that match you and your skillset. Once you have a list of career paths, you can begin to understand what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it, but also that you do have other options that you may need to explore in the future. However, one thing to remember is that by putting together an ideal career path, you are not blocking out all other alternatives, you are simply helping yourself to focus on your goals.

4.4 Gain as much Experience as you can

Something that most employers place great emphasis on when recruiting for a role is the experience that candidates have relating to the position they are looking to fill. In the business industry, somebody with experience can be much more valuable to employers than somebody with a long list of qualifications. Whilst the qualifications are great to have, experience within a similar role may just be the thing that sets you apart from the other candidates, and so it is vital that you gain relevant experience in any way that you can. This could be through a university work placement, a relevant internship, or a similar job at a different company.

Business professional explaining how to develop a successful career in business

4.5 Build up your Professional Connections

A great way to prepare for a successful career in business is to continuously build a professional network, including professionals, business owners and even business mentors. By building this network, you are developing connections with people that may be able to recommend you for jobs, endorse your skillset and help you to develop your knowledge. You can build professional connections at networking events, in online business groups and by being active on LinkedIn.

4.6 Take Online Courses in Relevant Topics

Whilst business degrees are a perfect way for you to develop and showcase your knowledge in certain areas of business, other relevant online courses will help you to become much more employable. Employers are now looking at more than just the qualifications and the grades you have achieved, with people skills, leaderships skills and effective time management increasingly important for your business career. One of the best ways to demonstrate that you have the skills they are looking for is to complete a series of online courses, related to the personal skills you may need.

4.7 Always ask Questions

One piece of advice that you should always remember when entering a new job in the business industry is that there is no such thing as a silly question. When starting out in your career or joining a new company, there will be many things you do not know and processes you are not aware of. By always asking questions, regardless of how small or meaningless you may think they are, you will always be fully prepared to produce quality work.

5. How to Promote Equality and Diversity in the Workplace

Much can be said about the workplace inequalities that graduates and all workers face, but the only way that these inequalities will be ousted from the workplace is if we all do our bit to eradicate them. This starts right at the very top, with employers able to create a more equal and diverse working environment for members of staff to feel comfortable to work in. Some of the things that you as the owner of your own business can do to promote equality and diversity in the workplace are:

5.1 Do not have a Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is an issue right throughout the UK and has been for many years. One of the best ways to create a more equal and diverse working environment is to ensure there is no gender pay gap within your business, and be honest about what you are doing and why it is necessary, as this will bring a sense of togetherness to your workforce. A pay structure you could introduce to promote equality in the workplace and help to close the UK gender pay gap is to have pay brackets for each role within the company, so that all members of staff are paid fairly when all factors are taken into account.

5.2 Ensure all Employees have the same Opportunities

All employees should have the same opportunities for growth within the company, including the same opportunity to prove their ability to take on additional responsibilities. If a company only allows men to take the lead on sales pitches or to work with bigger clients, the likelihood is that only men will be able to prove their worth when deciding who should be promoted to a higher position. Companies could introduce a fair system that enables all members of staff to have the same access to relevant opportunities and any available training.

5.3 Have Equality Policies and Procedures in Place

Equality in the workplace should be standardised, and this is something that can be done by introducing equality policies and procedures. All members of staff should always be treated equally and fairly, including in relation to anything work-related, such as pay, training and opportunities. By adding equality policies and procedures to your company, you can set the standard right from the very top, creating a more equal and diverse company that says no to discrimination in the workplace.

Woman pointing to ways to promote equality and diversity in the workplace

5.4 Stamp out Discrimination and Bullying

As part of the Equality Act 2010, all employers are responsible for protecting their staff from discrimination, bullying and any kind of harassment in the workplace. You must stay alert to any of these issues, including discrimination for race, religion, age, gender and more, fully investigate any reports of workplace discrimination and act against it. For more information on HRM and all related aspects, including organisational behaviour, cultural management, employee relations and more, take a look at our free online HRM lecture.

5.5 Introduce Mentor Programs for All Employees

An effective way to spread equality and confidence throughout the workplace is to introduce mentor programs that all members of staff can be involved in. For new or inexperienced members of the team, having a mentor to turn to for advice and guidance can only be a positive thing. Mentors not only provide advice and guidance but can also be instrumental in making mentees feel empowered and confident in what they are doing, and ultimately helping them to recognise that they are an equal and valued member of the team.

5.6 Follow the Swedish Approach to Equality

The Swedish approach to gender equality in the workplace is simply that everybody, regardless of your gender, is a valued member of the company that has the right to work. Sweden overall has worked extremely hard to encourage and promote gender equality in the workplace, ensuring that not only policies are put in place to prevent such inequality, but that mindsets are completely changed too. Gender discrimination in the workplace has been illegal in Sweden since 1980, with the Swedish Discrimination Act having been in place since 2009. This act means that employers must be proactive in encouraging gender equality at their company, and they must act against cases of harassment or discrimination. Businesses in the UK should follow the Swedish model, actively seeking to remove the gender pay gap to create an equal and diverse working environment for all.

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