We all enjoy an underdog story. Take for example Howard Schultz, who grew up in a Brooklyn housing project and went on to become the CEO of Starbucks. Oprah Winfrey is another example.
The truth is, socioeconomic bias still exists in some of the world’s biggest companies. Without opportunities, people from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot get a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. We look at the work of the Social Mobility Foundation in improving inclusivity in some of the UK’s biggest corporations.
What is the Social Mobility Employers Index?
Created by the Social Mobility Foundation, UK, the Index is a benchmark. It ranks British employers in terms of the efforts they take to hire and promote talent from all backgrounds. This showcases progress that facilitates social mobility.
The main aim of the Social Mobility Employer’s Index is to incentivize British employers to become more open and inclusive, taking tangible steps to improving social mobility. Launched in 2017, the Index covers a variety of UK sectors, with more than 136 employers, and 1.4 million employees, taking part in the initiative to date.
Why is the Index so important?
Promoting and supporting inclusivity in the workplace is the essence of good management. Diversity helps businesses to flourish by bringing together people from a myriad of different backgrounds with their own unique viewpoints. Ultimately, this broadens the skills and life experience available to the business and widens its potential reach.
We know that diversity helps companies to grow. Yet research consistently shows that we still have a long way to go. People from privileged backgrounds continue to occupy a disproportionate percentage of the highest-paid jobs. Employers continue to give precedence to job candidates from elite universities and private schools.
How does the Index work?
Membership is free. Employees from participating companies are asked various questions. For example, they are asked whether they identify as working, middle, or upper class. They are also asked whether they believe their background has held them back professionally.
The Index looks at which universities employees attended to determine whether employers exhibited unintentional bias in the recruitment process. They look at how companies engage with young people to seek new talent, whether in the form of graduate recruitment or school pipelines and apprenticeship programs.
Employers receive feedback highlighting areas with room for improvement as well as areas in which they performed well. Any participant organization that falls outside the Top 50 receives feedback without being named.
Who are the UK’s best social mobility employers?
The Social Mobility Index Top 20 for 2018 were: Severn Trent; Freeths LLP; Department for Education; Department for Work and Pensions; Mazars; Herbert Smith Freehills; WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC; Aviva PLC; J.P. Morgan; Linklaters LLP; Baker McKenzie; Civil Service Fast Stream and Early Talent; Enterprise Rent-A-Car; EY; PwC; Deloitte UK; Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner; Ministry of Justice; Grant Thornton UK; KPMG UK LLP.
The Index does not name companies that perform poorly. This is because by allowing companies that fail to reach the Top 50 to remain anonymous, businesses are encouraged to take part without the risk of reprisals or negative press if they fall short.
What is the Social Mobility Foundation?
This charity was set up to improve the prospects of young people in the UK, particularly those who come from low-income backgrounds. The company was established by Linkson Jack in 2005. It aims to provide opportunities and supportive networks to 16- and 17-year-olds who are struggling to get sufficient support from their families or schools.
Today, more than a decade after the charity was established, the first students supported by the Social Mobility Foundation are gaining degrees and starting their careers. The organization supports university students across 11 career sectors, including banking and finance, accountancy, law, politics, biology and chemistry, digital, medicine, media and communications, engineering and physics, architecture, and business.
The Social Mobility Foundation runs outreach programs across the UK to support students in their local communities wherever they live. Between 2018 and 2019, the Social Mobility Foundation opened new offices in Cardiff and Liverpool. Expanding around the country has facilitated greater reach, enabling the organization to support around 1,700 young people annually.
In addition to opening new offices, the Social Mobility Foundation has expanded its residential programs. It currently works with leading UK employers to support young people across the length and breadth of Great Britain from the Western Isles to the Isle of Wight.
What impact has the Social Mobility Foundation had?
The organization works closely with businesses to support more than 4,000 undergraduates at universities all around the UK. Social Mobility Foundation alumni have been recruited by more than 150 different employers, with one employer offering jobs to more than 110 students through its various recruitment programs.
Today in the UK, just 12 percent of chief executives, 12 percent of journalists, and 6 percent of doctors self-identify as coming from working-class backgrounds. Organizations like the Social Mobility Foundation are sorely needed to turn the situation around.