Class Ceilings

“End-of-term report for UK plc shows state-schooled pupils still struggle to make it to the top of big business.”

A new report by a Linstock client, the diversity consultancy Equal Approach, shows that big business is still an old boys’ network. The research looked at the educational backgrounds of FTSE 100 CEOs and Chairs, finding that 45.2% went to a private school, and 28.1% went to either Oxford or Cambridge. Only 7% of the general population are educated privately, and a much smaller percentage study at Oxbridge, meaning UK plc still has a long way to go before its weightings are proportionate.

The numbers are particularly interesting given the general lack of attention paid to proxies for class in the boardroom. There is frequent criticism of the lack of female representation at board-level and companies’ poor performance against Lord Davies’ targets. But few consider that diversity consists of a lot more than sex. We shouldn’t allow a focus on the ‘glass ceiling’, important though it is, to obscure the difficulties experienced by state-schooled pupils in trying to break through the ‘class ceiling’. If the top-level of business is socially exclusive in any direction you increase the tendency for groupthink. This ultimately impacts on the bottom line as a group of people who share a narrow view of the world will develop products and services that are a poor match for a broader market.

The report split its findings by sector and found that banks were best in class. This probably won’t banish stereotypes of bankers as a blue blood elite, but it is worth noting that none of the leaders of the biggest banks were privately educated in the UK. By contrast, 57.1% of Chairs and CEOs in the media industry went to private school and 42.9% went to just one university, Cambridge. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Clearly banking should do a much better job of letting its true colours show; the industry’s state-schooled senior executives need to be louder and prouder about their beginnings. Too often headlines are dominated by bonuses and pay packets, but would people feel as outraged if they knew most CEOs and Chairs at UK banks weren’t from privileged backgrounds? By championing the values of diversity and highlighting the industry’s meritocratic recruitment and promotion procedures, members of the banking profession may find it easier to rebuild trust with a public that’s otherwise quick to criticise.

But to do this they need to make sure they actually walk the walk, and this report makes interesting reading for anyone interested in learning more about the ‘class ceiling’ and how to help their employees break it. A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Equal Approach website.

Madeleine Crowther
Junior Consultant

Leave a Reply

Name *

Mail (not published) *

Comment

* Required field

Blog: More rest for the wonderful: How too much work shuts off your creative brain

“Could working better mean working less and resting more?”

The UK has a productivity problem. Germany beats us, as does France. Even siesta-loving Italians get more done than we do. And...

Read more

Case Study: Southend Borough Council

“Sustainable transport: unlocking the change”

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council was awarded a grant from the Department for Transport to improve economic growth and reduce...

Read more

Case Study: TheCityUK

Managing the reputation of one of the UK's largest industry sectors

TheCityUK is the membership body for the UK’s financial and related professional services industry. Its membership includes...

Read more

Case Study: Harborough

“Managing reputation during transformational change”

Local authorities across the country are grappling with the challenges of budget cuts and a more localist approach. Linstock...

Read more

Blog: Thought Leadership Guide – Tip 3: Ensure Your Content is Findable

“Content may be King, but findability is most certainly Queen. ”

A growing number of firms are investing heavily in thought leadership, providing a fresh perspective on pressing issues of the...

Read more

Blog: RWC 2015: Tackling the science of good communications

“If there’s a good process in place, the outputs are far more likely to lay long-term foundations for success.”

It’s all gone egg-shaped. For the next month or so, rugby will be the sport of the moment as the World Cup takes place across...

Read more