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Socio-economic diversity – why it fails to exist after education

Inequality in the UK workforce as a result of socio-economic differences continues to be a pressing issue, with nearly 1 in 3 children in the UK living in poverty today, a figure that was exacerbated due to the pandemic. Child poverty in areas like the northeast of England has risen 11% in the past 5 years according to the Social Mobility Commission, while educational discrepancies and the “postcode lottery” continue to be part of the problem. National research commissioned by Trachet – a hands-on advisory and boutique consulting firm – has found that one in five (19%) workers feel they need to alter their accent and the way they speak to be successful in their career. Despite improvements to education, it is also up to British industry, in this case particularly social sciences and investment banking, to create opportunities and give young people from non-privileged backgrounds a route into a high-income career. This would go a long way to ensuring higher rates of social mobility taking into consideration that banking and finance represent nearly 18% of the UK’s workforce and provide many of the highest paying jobs.

The disadvantages begin with the recruitment and selection process and are rooted in the relationship between top organisations and prestigious schools, where those from less privileged backgrounds are more likely to face obstacles, which can lead to a built-up disadvantage. The Social Mobility Commission found that 82% of students attended non-selective state schools, 11% attended a selective state school and 7% attended fee-paying schools. However, within investment banking, 51% of current leaders went to private schools as well as 34% of new entrants, which is huge considering how many of the latter of new entrants and leaders are ex-pats.

Claire Trachet, Founder and CEO of Trachet, knows that getting a foot in the door of investment banking is hard for women and ethnic minority individuals but is not the only challenge in the sector. After a successful career in investment banking, Claire decided to set up her advisory, Trachet, to address the inequalities that women and those from ethnic minorities face in the workplace. She was not only shocked by the inaccessibility of the industry, especially for roles with higher seniority but also in the critical issue of absurd pay gaps that existed within these well-established organisations that claim to have very advanced diversity programs. In Investment banking, women make on average, 56% of what their male counterparts earn, and this is not the worst of it.

Since 2017, organisations with over 250 employees are required by law to report gender pay gaps, however, ethnicity pay gaps are still not regulated and according to the Bank of England, only 63% of employers monitor ethnicity pay gaps while only 31% of employers currently publish them making it increasingly difficult to redress this.

Claire has found that truly diverse teams and start-ups with which she has collaborated have outperformed their respective markets thanks to the innovation, entrepreneurialism, and reduced homogeneity in their group dynamics. This is further confirmed by many studies, an example being a report commissioned by McKinsey & Co called Diversity wins, where they have quantified the advantages of having a diverse team where they found that teams with more than 30% female executives were 48% more likely to outperform those with few to nonfemale execs. This is replicated in the case of ethnic and cultural diversity where the companies with the highest ethnic diversity outperformed companies with the least diversity by 36%.