The report, Beyond Buzzwords, cautions that unless change is urgently prioritised, recent progress risks unravelling.

The research was conducted on behalf of 12 professional membership and regulatory bodies, including ACCA. It incorporates insights from more than 7,000 professionals across accountancy, engineering, health and safety, facilities management, human resources, insurance, law, management, procurement and public relations. 

It finds nearly three-quarters of respondents had experienced barriers to career progression (73%) or 'discriminatory or exclusionary’ behaviour  in their workplace (72%). Negative experiences were even more pronounced among those with multiple marginalised characteristics.  

Key concerns emerging from the research include:

• There is widespread scepticism that ambitious EDI goals are being translated into meaningful actions, with a perception that rhetoric and box-ticking exercises bring few tangible improvements. As a result, support for EDI efforts seems to be waning.

• Access and entry routes into many professions remain challenging for people from minority backgrounds, with systemic barriers related to affordability of qualifications, accessibility issues, and lack of role models. This contradicts notions that professional success is based on merit.  

• Many professionals feel excluded from informal networks and opportunities to develop. More than half (53%) have considered leaving their employer or profession due to EDI concerns, related to feeling undervalued or having limited scope to progress.