Only 2% of EY’s intern class says diversity is a key factor in choosing an employer

EY interns value advancement above all else.
EY interns value advancement above all else.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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Millennials, the conventional wisdom holds, value diversity and seek it out when applying for jobs.

Or maybe not.

In a July survey, just 2% of interns at EY—the accounting and consulting firm formerly called Ernst & Young—said they prioritized a company’s reputation for diversity and inclusion when looking for an employer. It trailed other factors like opportunities for growth and advancement, selected by 84%; flexibility (59%); and parental leave benefits (16%).

EY polled more than 1,660 of its interns around the world, in an online survey. Respondents could select multiple answers.

It’s hard to interpret the results. Two-thirds of the interns surveyed were white; it’s possible that diversity doesn’t register as a concern for most of them. It’s also possible they’re just extremely self-interested, but only 1% said they prioritized salary, while 27% said they valued a “robust community engagement and social responsibility offering,” suggesting they’re not completely detached from social issues.

Yet another possible explanation is their youth. It may be that for today’s college students, the value of a diverse workplace is a battle many feel has already been won. According to Larry Nash, EY’s US recruiting leader, 44% of teenagers polled in a 2016 survey said a diverse workplace was essential for trusting their employers. “Diversity and inclusion is already an expectation of their employers, rather than an unmet need,” Nash says.