It’s widely reported that the most competitive professions are dominated by those from wealthier backgrounds, with only 6 per cent of doctors, 12 per cent of chief executives and 12 per cent of journalists today coming from working-class backgrounds.
At the Social Mobility Foundation, we are working to tackle this through the Social Mobility Employer Index, the first bench-marking initiative of its kind that ranks employers on the efforts they are making to access and progress talents from all backgrounds. The Index is gaining real traction and since 2017, 136 employers across 18 different sectors, collectively representing 1.4 million employees in the UK, have taken part. You can view last year’s Top 50 employers here.
Progress can already be seen from the first to the second year of the Index. Socio-economic background is now considered an important part of data monitoring for new staff, with a majority of entrants in 2018 now asking employees whether their parents went to university (53%) or the type of school they attended (51%). Progress is also being made to assess academic achievement within the context of applicants’ backgrounds. 27% of the employers now put the grades of the candidates applying to them in the context of the school or college the applicant attended.
Challenges still remain. In 2018, employers were encouraged to ask their employees to answer an anonymous employee survey, which revealed some interesting findings. The survey of over 11,000 employees found that 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.
The Index also found that there is still a strong propensity amongst firms to recruit from a narrow pool of universities. In government departments/agencies an average of 5 in 10 hires are from Russell Group universities; in professional service firms it is 6 in 10 hires; whilst at law firms more than 8 in 10 hires come from Russell Group universities, with some law firms hiring over 90% from these universities even where only half of their applicants come from the institutions.
One of the most significant findings of the 2018 Index was that 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. 74% of respondents to a question about client priorities said 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%). Even when organisations who did not answer the question are included, 48% of all Index organisations said socio-economic background, compared to 50% saying race and 56% saying gender.
If your organisation is taking social mobility seriously, I would strongly encourage you to submit to the Index this year. It is completely free of charge to enter, all organisations receive a feedback report to help inform their social mobility strategy going forward and you can also choose to submit anonymously. For more information and to register, visit http://www.socialmobility.org.uk/index or email me directly at email@example.com.