Racial, ethnic minorities overrepresented in unpaid internships, NACE survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Graduating university and college seniors who are “racial/ethnic minorities” are overrepresented in unpaid internships[1], according to a survey of 3,952 graduating seniors by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The survey defined “racial/ethnic minorities” as individuals who are African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American, Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander, multi-racial or on an F-1 visa.
  • For example, students who identified as African American accounted for 6.6% of respondents in the survey, but 6% of paid internships and 7.3% of unpaid internships, indicating such students are overrepresented in unpaid internships, NACE said. The organization also found that Hispanic-American students and multi-racial students are overrepresented among those without an internship.
  • NACE also noted that women accounted for 74% of respondents, 68% of paid internships and 81% of unpaid internships. White students accounted for 71% of all respondents and 74% of paid internships.

Dive Insight:

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many employers to change their internships — and others to cancel them. But internships can be part of talent development as well as a building block for diverse talent pipelines.[2]

Debates continue over whether unpaid internships are acceptable in the modern work environment. But sources who spoke to HR Dive earlier this year noted that unpaid internships can unnecessarily limit a candidate pool to those with access to certain resources; such a strategy excludes those who cannot afford unpaid work, even if experience is viewed as a replacement for pay, the sources said[3].

The idea that internships should be part of a broader D&I strategy, however, isn’t new. In 2016, Fast Company reported on the strategies of companies including Google and Pinterest, which launched internship programs geared toward groups that are historically underrepresented in the technology industry. This year, IBM said it would offer 1,000 paid internships to students and graduates of its Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools program, which has a “heavy focus” on students of color in educationally underserved areas in the U.S., IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said.[4][5]

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