The importance of diversity initiatives as a method of entry into the corporate world
For some, a corporate career is the most logical beginning out of poverty. It is an opportunity to earn capital otherwise inaccessible to them, due to the lottery of birth and the rampant wealth inequality which sweeps through the West. The world is deeply unfair and unequal. Remnants of slavery, combined with unconscious racial bias, contribute to a lack of black and ethnic minority talent in top tier corporate fields; such as, law, consultancy and investment banking.
As a society, we should endeavour to level the playing field so that everyone who would like the chance to excel is afforded the same opportunity to prove themselves amongst their peers. No one should be priced out of high level careers, due to factors beyond their control; such as parental (in)ability to fund their enrolment in private school or due to their ethnic background.
Diversity organisations seek to do just this and promote competition, thereby ensuring that candidates enter the corporate world based on merit alone, and not by virtue of their family connections or ability to pay their way into schools, universities and jobs.
“Two candidates apply for the same graduate job. Both have AAB at A Level.
Toby attended a top private school. The average grades at Toby’s school in his year were AAA. His dad is a barrister and his mum a judge. In this context, Toby’s performance was average.
Sally attended a comprehensive school. The average grades at Sally's school in her year were CCD. Sally got free school meals. Her parents never went to university.
In this context, Sally’s performance was excellent.”
I thought this was a great way to explain the inequality in the hiring process, and the systemic problems stopping these factors being recognised in the workplace, meaning candidates from non-traditional backgrounds miss out on opportunities to prove themselves.
Here we can see that candidate grades have historically been taken at face value only, meaning that those who have had a less traditional upbringing may struggle to portray their excellence, by virtue solely of A-Level grades. By holding candidate grades in context of their background, a more holistic picture can be understood, and diverse candidates can be afforded the chance to prove themselves at interview, as opposed to being automatically filtered out by computer generated thresholds.
“In the field of law, 74% of top judges working in the high court and appeals court were privately educated. In medicine, Sutton Trust research says 61% of the country’s top doctors were educated at independent schools; nearly a quarter (22%) went to grammar school and the remainder to comprehensives.
Graduates of Oxford and Cambridge universities also continue to dominate the field, though they educate less than 1% of the population. In law, nearly three quarters (74%) of the top judiciary went to Oxbridge; 54% of the country’s leading journalists went to Oxbridge, and just under half (47%) of the cabinet attended Oxbridge, compared with 32% of the shadow cabinet.”
These statistics show that there is still more to be accomplished to level the playing field. The aim is to afford students from non-traditional backgrounds the same opportunities as their peers. This can be achieved through increased education and awareness of corporate careers within state educated student bodies, as well as changes to corporate recruiting itself.
Below are two examples of organisations which seek to disrupt corporate recruitment through the above methods.
Rare’s Contextual Recruitment programme seeks to change the inequalities identified above, by allowing recruiters to see each candidate's application in context of their circumstances. This allows them to make better informed decisions around who to interview. Their Contextual Recruitment Software provides real time contextual information allowing recruiters to identify exceptional candidates they might otherwise miss, by measuring each candidate’s achievements against comprehensive datasets and classification systems developed over more than a decade. Firms adopting CRS hire 61% more people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and is currently implemented in over 100 top employers’ recruitment strategies.
RARE also offer mentoring programmes in areas such as law, consulting and investment banking, such as Discuss (for social mobility candidates) and Articles (for BME candidates), along with Hemisphere which helps interviewers and managers combat unconscious bias.
“There are structural imbalances in our education system which perpetuate educational and career inequalities for state - educated students. At inState, our vision is to foster confidence and aspiration in our state-school students through the facilitation of peer-networks of mutual support to increase access to, and representation in, corporate spaces. I welcome the increased emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion in policy spaces - through empowering young people to lead this discussion we will ensure that the D&I agenda is ambitious and truly transformative.”
InState is a UK-wide, student-led network, aiming to broaden access for state-school educated university students pursuing corporate career paths consisting of students from across UK universities who share a common commitment to diversifying and demystifying corporate pathways. By increasing awareness of the corporate routes open to students, their aim is to increase state-school representation across the board. This is perpetuated through InState’s mentoring programme, professional development masterclasses, tailored opportunity listings, and exclusive networking opportunities.
Hopefully, the combination of diversity initiatives, and the desire of diverse candidates to enter the corporate world, can result in significant change, and corporations more representative of the ever-changing world we live in.
I encourage all students to utilise the wider resources offered by the above diversity initiatives, as well as the services offered by BSC Mentors, to ensure they maximise their chances of entering the corporate world.
As a society, we should do all we can to close the gaps perpetuated by wealth inequality, and look to level the playing field to afford all students the opportunity to compete at the highest level, regardless of background or financial status.
Increase diversity, in any way possible, whether it is through mentoring, donating, or sharing a LinkedIn post!