1 in 3 say class holds them back in their careers

Young professionals or students planning new project

MORE than 30% of employees feel their class has held them back in their careers, according to research which accompanies the 2018 Social Mobility Employer Index (SMEI).

The top 50 UK employers to have pledged action in the field have been ranked in the Social Mobility Foundation’s unique index – topped by KPMG.

The table judges organisations on the processes being adopted to ensure they are open to accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds.

This year it finds having a workforce that is diverse in terms of social background is fast becoming as important to employers as being diverse in terms of gender and race.

More than 100 employers from 18 sectors, who collectively employ over one million people, entered the 2018 index. Entrants included banks, law firms, government departments, engineering firms, retail firms and technology companies.

KPMG was followed in the standings by Grant Thornton UK, the Ministry of Justice, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Deloitte, PwC, and EY.

David Johnston, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said that while much work still remains, he was encouraged to see the index stimulating change across the board.

“We have been very impressed by the efforts employers are making to ensure their organisation is open to talent from all backgrounds,” he said.

“We can really see organisations taking a whole host of actions to try and ensure that they have a diverse workforce in terms of socio-economic background as well as in terms of gender and race; they in turn are benefitting from accessing a much wider talent pool than they have traditionally recruited from.

“All entrants should be praised for broadening their approach.”

Over 11,000 people also took part in a voluntary employee survey, with 74% of respondents to a question about priorities saying they feel their clients now care about the socio-economic diversity of their organisation’s workforce – close to those saying race (77%) and gender (86%).

Policy chairman Catherine McGuinness said that the index, sponsored by the City Corporation, is helping to create “real momentum” in an area that “requires action”.

“Many leading businesses are showing real ambition in their approach to tackling the UK’s social mobility problem and it is important that firms continue to prioritise this area to help remove the barriers holding back the best and brightest in our society,” she said.

“Everyone has the right to a good career regardless of background and we must remove hurdles for young people who have the talent, but may lack the network of guidance, support and connections to get ahead.”

But serious challenges remain, with wide disparities in recruitment practices.
In government departments and agencies, half of all hires are from Russell Group universities; in professional service firms that number rises to 60%; and 80% in law firms.

The employee survey also revealed only 59% of those who identify as working class think their class background has not held them back in their workplace, compared to 77% of those who identify as middle class. A total of 16% of the working class respondents feel they need to hide their class background in the workplace.

“I want Britain to be a country that works for everyone, with the same opportunities available for all, regardless of background or circumstance,” said secretary of state for education, Damian Hinds.

“We all have a role to play in building that society – but education is key to ensuring people have the knowledge and the skills they need to make the most of their potential.

“Employers are also a vital part of this mission and the Social Mobility Employers Index celebrates those businesses that are tearing down barriers to opportunity and tapping into the rich pool of talent that exists across our country.

“I would urge everyone to look at the organisations topping this index and ask themselves ‘what can I learn from them?’.”