The Role of Diversity in Internships

As has been widely documented, the technology sector has a longstanding and persistent issue as it pertains to its lack of diversity and representation.

diveristy in internships

As it stands, only 26% of the UK technology sector’s workforce are women, while ethnic minorities make up only 18% of its numbers. While the numbers may show promise nowadays compared to recent years, it’s evident that there is still a long way to go. It doesn’t help that the sector itself is plagued with outdated preconceptions of being a ‘boys-only’ club, which is why it’s unsurprising that so many young women are dissuaded from joining the sector. 


Most technology employers would agree that improving their diversity ratio helps them be more creative, innovative and achieve better results for their clients and customers. Embracing diversity is crucial for challenging biases and reflecting on the diversity that exists within technology as a whole. Incorporating diverse hiring practices should not be seen as a tick-box exercise; it should be viewed strategically as a way for companies to be more visible and actively demonstrate inclusivity


One of the most effective ways for companies to bridge the diversity gap and build a more inclusive workforce is to establish internship programmes. These programmes have been embraced for some time in sectors like technology – and beyond – but how can organisations successfully overcome diversity challenges by hiring the right interns? Let’s look into this in more detail.


Why Are Internships Important?


Internships provide work experience for – usually young – people looking to break into industries or fields for the first time, or who are looking for ways to learn valuable skills while earning a basic salary or completing their education. 


It’s no secret that unpaid internships have received heavy criticism in the past, which is why companies have to tread carefully. If they can pay interns a respectable wage while providing them with valuable real-world experience, the agreement is more likely to be mutually beneficial and lead to long-term success. 


From a business’s perspective, internships can help build solid talent pipelines and save them significant amounts on recruitment costs. Individuals benefit greatly from internships as they can learn crucial technical skills and begin to get used to working for a reputable and respected firm. For technology companies in particular, internships present them with opportunities to tap into new and diverse talent pools. 


By adopting inclusive recruitment policies and establishing a diverse company culture from the outset, internship programmes can appeal to greater numbers of applicants. Furthermore, over time, they can address issues around the sector’s longstanding lack of diversity. 


It’s all well and good saying that internships present such opportunities, but how exactly can a company alter its hiring practices and culture to attract the right types of interns?


How Tech Companies Can Bridge the Diversity Gap With Internships


Technology firms can become more ‘visible’ and ‘active’ in the ongoing fight to close the diversity gap in three distinct ways:

  1. Building an inclusive culture
  2. Diversifying recruitment and acquisition tactics
  3. Establishing a positive reputation for diversity and inclusion


Build an Inclusive Culture


For a company’s internship programme to attract diverse candidates who can offer different, unique perspectives and points of view, the business owner must work diligently to foster an inclusive culture from top to bottom.


This will involve:

  • Promoting a sense of belonging for people from all backgrounds and walks of life, so that everybody feels welcome and valued.
  • Ensuring fair and equitable policies – in HR, recruitment and line management – to remove any systematic barriers and accommodate each person’s individual, unique needs.
  • Challenging unconscious biases and stereotypes, and providing training to help all employees recognise and address their own biases, even if their intentions might be pure.
  • Actively celebrating diversity and promoting their practices, whether it’s sharing stories of employees from minority backgrounds on social media, or publishing case studies on their customer-facing website. 
  • Supporting marginalised and under-represented groups, and providing coaching and mentorship opportunities to help their personal and professional development.


By building an inclusive workplace and culture, interns will see first-hand that your company takes diversity seriously and provides opportunities for deserving individuals regardless of their background. 


Reputation and Engagement


Any company’s reputation for inclusion and diversity inside and outside the organisation is vital for attracting more potential interns when vacancies arise. Not only that, but your followers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders will also take notice if you are visibly trying to improve your company’s diversity.


Companies should consider the following as far as reputation and engagement are concerned:

  • Share and publicise your data to demonstrate your commitment to change. This can come in the form of diversity metrics, performance, or ambitions that you, as a company, intend to act upon. This can create valuable content for social media or your website that, over time, can garner plenty of visibility and attention organically from your tech firm’s target audience. 
  • Empower your employees and interns to use their voices and share their stories across internal company communications as well as in customer-facing scenarios. Make sure to get their consent first before doing so.
  • Once you establish your internship programme, that does not mean you stop there. Monitor the success and diversity of your programme and gather feedback. Make improvements and refine the programme from there, and be open to acknowledging and holding yourself accountable for any faults or failures.
  • Encourage your interns to suggest ways to improve your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and take their feedback seriously. The most valuable insights come from those that can offer real-life experience and perspectives.
  • Use your public platforms to raise awareness of the significant challenges that under-represented and marginalised groups face. Rather than telling others what ‘should’ be done, or making broad generalisations, consider educating others using data, statistics and objectivity.


Following the above steps will work wonders at helping technology firms quash many of the misconceptions and outdated ideals that people may hold about them. 


Diversify Your Acquisition Approach


Another way that technology companies can attract greater numbers of diverse interns involves them diversifying and adjusting their recruitment strategies.


To attract more interns, companies need to:

  • Target a wider range of colleges, universities and education agencies. Companies can make strides by partnering with those that serve diverse populations or under-represented groups.
  • Build relationships with charities, professional networks and social enterprises that actively focus on marginalised groups. Contacts in these specialist firms will be able to promote your internship vacancies and may even suggest worthwhile candidates.
  • Use inclusive and neutral language in vacancy advertisements to appeal to a broader range of candidates. These job adverts also make great places to mention your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Remove any personal details from applications during the candidate shortlisting process to prevent conscious or unconscious biases from creeping in. This is known as blind hiring and has been beneficial for many firms in the past.
  • Offer bespoke application support to address some barriers that candidates may face, such as video tutorials or informal phone calls to break the ice.


While many of the tactics outlined above don’t require a huge amount of adjustment for a recruitment strategy, it’s astounding how many more diverse candidates your company could attract by implementing them. 

Benefits of an Inclusive Internship Programme


In summary, an inclusive company internship programme will bring provide a company with:

  • Access to top, diverse talent from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • A stronger and more refined company culture that embraces inclusivity and nurtures talent in the right ways.
  • Cultural and economic insights into new markets to help them serve diverse groups.
  • A broad range of new and different perspectives, which, in turn, will boost creativity, innovation, problem-solving and productivity.


An inclusive internship programme that embraces diversity will build a sustainable pipeline of talent for the future.