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  • Five Ways Employers Can Boost Diversity Hiring of Interns

    BETHLEHEM, PA—There were gender and race disparities within the compositions of the 2020-21 intern cohort as the majority of students who take part in internships are men and identify as white, according to a new survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    NACE’s 2022 Internship & Co-op Survey found that while white males continue to be overrepresented, there has been some progress when comparing recent cohorts.

    “In particular, there were 3.4% more Black interns taking part in 2020-21 than in 2019-20; this represents progress,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director. “However, many historically marginalized groups—notably female, Black, and Hispanic students—remain underrepresented relative to their distribution in the overall student population.”

    Although women and students of color are underrepresented in internship cohorts, when they are provided internship opportunities, they are more likely to receive full-time job offers.

    “This supports the idea that internships can democratize access to first jobs post-college, particularly for historically marginalized groups,” VanDerziel explains.

    Employers have reported that enhancing DEI at their respective organizations is a critical goal for them. For example, in studies conducted by NACE, 88% of employers indicated they have a diversity recruiting program, and 67% allocated more funds to recruit for diversity as a result of the racial reckoning sparked during the summer of 2020.

    “Clearly,” VanDerziel says, “improving the diversity of the workforce continues to be of utmost importance to employers. Internship programs are a way for companies to strengthen their pipeline of future employees generally, but also a great place to concentrate on improving the diverse talent pool.”

    The following recommendations offer actionable insights based on the findings of NACE research:

    • Cast a wider net—In terms of school selection, employers should examine the demographics associated with the students at the schools at which they typically recruit and expand beyond that list as needed. Employers also can incorporate virtual recruiting options to reach schools that are not feasible to visit in person.

    • Conduct an equity audit of the internship cohort—An equity audit will help employers determine if they are indeed recruiting a sufficiently diverse internship cohort, bringing to light discrepancies in the composition of the cohort, pay rates, and possibly even the tasks and responsibilities given to interns.

    • Use the internship program as a diversified pipeline to a diverse workforce—As employers make efforts to diversify their workforce, their internship programs should be the starting point for this diversification. Ensuring a diverse group of interns will aid in diversifying newly hired employees.

    • Build on positive offer rates and conversions—Employers are doing well in terms of making offers to and converting female, Black, and Hispanic-American interns into full-time employees, exceeding the rates posted for male interns and those who identify as white. To keep this momentum going and achieve the level of diversity needed to reflect the diversity of the general American population, employers should continue to focus on converting interns from historically marginalized groups, while striving for equitable representation within their internship cohort.

    • Provide relocation assistance to interns—Providing relocation assistance to interns can be a powerful way of helping to diversify employers’ internship cohorts. Just as virtual recruiting and virtual internships show promise for diversifying internship cohorts and the general workforce, providing relocation assistance helps break down geographic barriers that block access to students seeking an internship.

    About NACE’s 2022 Internship & Co-op Survey Report: NACE’s 2022 Internship & Co-op Survey Report provides projections for internship and co-op programs for the 2021-22 academic year, but the bulk of the information presented here represent data gathered from 2020-21 internship and co-op programs. Historical data are also provided to indicate trends. Data collection took place from November 10, 2021, to January 12, 2022. There were 183 NACE member respondents representing 22.4% of eligible member respondents. The Internship & Co-op Survey was also distributed to nonmember companies from which an additional 26 responses were received. For information about how to purchase the 2022 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, see

    About NACE: Established in 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the only professional association in the United States that connects more than 9,800 college career services professionals, more than 3,300 university relations and recruiting professionals, and more than 300 business solution providers that serve this community.

    NACE is the premier source of market research on career readiness and employment of recent college graduates. NACE forecasts hiring and trends in the job market; tracks salaries, recruiting and hiring practices, and student attitudes and outcomes; and identifies best practices and benchmarks.

    NACE offers its members unparalleled research, networking and professional development opportunities, guidance on standards and ethics, and advocacy on key issues. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.