The complex nature of background and belonging


By Jackie Grisdale

I posted recently about our first two waves of findings from our research with 2,000 young people aged 16-21. It highlighted the significant impact recent events have had on the lives of our young people – and also the big issues they are concerned about right now.

Disappointingly, we found that discrimination is a key concern and still prevalent in the lives of our young generation – with 59% of all young people we asked stating that they regularly feel discriminated against.

It’s not good enough.

We wanted to dig a little deeper to understand to what extent young people perceive that their background has an impact or influence on various aspects of their lives. And our research clearly shows that it has a huge influence on the experiences they have. It affects their sense of belonging, it influences their decisions about education and careers and most importantly they feel their background impacts their future opportunities in life.

Key findings from our third wave of research show that:

  • More Black Heritage, Asian and Mixed Race respondents felt their background opened them up to discrimination.
  • Intersectionality exacerbates the issue, with 71% of females of Black Heritage saying their background opened them up to discrimination ‘very much so’ compared to 27% of Black Heritage males.
  • Regular experiences of gender discrimination are seen in much higher proportions by females.
  • The LGBTQ+ community continue to face discrimination regularly – 39% of gay / lesbian respondents said they regularly face discrimination based on their sexuality.
  • Appearance is also an area where respondents faced regular discrimination.
  • Background influences a young person’s sense of belonging, with higher proportions of Black and Mixed Race females saying their sense of belonging was influenced by their background than Black and Mixed Race males.
  • More Black Heritage (36%) and Asian (37%) respondents felt their education has been influenced by their background. And again, intersectionality compounded effects.
  • More Black Heritage (42%) and Asian (36%) respondents felt their background affects their future opportunities in life.

So, as the findings from our research (and many academic papers on the subject) show, a young person’s background influences their future. But we need to dig beneath the surface to get to the heart of how to unpick, and rectify, many of the systemic issues that cause underrepresented groups to feel that they are treated differently.

The goal has to be equality, inclusion and belonging.

There isn’t a quick fix. Every person and every organisation is different. And our research shows once again how intersectionality amplifies the challenges faced by young people.

But we all have the opportunity to do something to create change. We need to consider what we can, and must, do to make our institutions and organisations a more inclusive place for young people to belong to as they enter Higher Education and employment.

By carefully considering our strategies, and the underpinning tactics, we can identify the ways that we can ensure our cultures and communications are as inclusive as possible, breaking down barriers every step of the way. And that includes ensuring diversity is reflected in our marketing communications – an overwhelming majority of our respondents felt that this was key.

To take a look at our findings in more detail, download the report. Or get in touch if you would like to discuss our research or our work around Diversity & Inclusion further.