Aim: to explore recruitment to UK midwifery programmes from the perspective of applicants from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and describe the perceptions and experiences of the application process for these applicants and those from white backgrounds.
Background: Midwifery in the Global North is an overwhelmingly white profession. This lack of diversity has been cited as a factor in the poorer outcomes experienced by women from non-white backgrounds. There is a need for midwifery programmes to recruit and support more ethnically and racially diverse cohorts if this situation is to be addressed. Very little is currently known about the recruitment experiences of midwifery applicants.
Design: A mixed methods study comprising a survey and individual interview or focus group. The study was conducted between September 2020 and March 2021 in three universities in South East England. Participants comprised 440 applicants to midwifery programmes, and 13 current or recently qualified BAME midwifery students
Findings: Although many survey findings in respect to choosing a midwifery programme were broadly similar between candidates from BAME and non-BAME backgrounds, some trends were noted. More BAME applicants cited school/college rather than family as encouraging. More BAME applicants also indicated that they would consider issues of diversity when selecting a place of study, and BAME respondents appeared less likely to consider location and university life. Survey and focus group findings combined may indicate deficits in social capital available to BAME midwifery applicants. Focus group findings in particular suggest multiple experiences of challenge and inequity at all stages of the application process, together with a perception that midwifery is a niche and white profession. Applicants value proactive support from universities and would appreciate increased diversity, opportunities for mentorship and an individualised approach to recruitment.
Conclusions: BAME applicants to midwifery can face additional challenges which impact their ability to secure a place. There is a need to reposition midwifery as an inclusive and welcoming option for people from all backgrounds, and to develop equitable recruitment processes that value a range of skills and life experiences.