Archive for category Equality

Social mobility needs more than paid internships

It's not just about providing the right footholds...

The UK Government recently released Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility.

The report quotes some depressing statistics about social mobility in the UK.

  • Only one in five young people from the poorest families achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with three quarters from the richest families.
  • 25% of children from poor backgrounds fail to meet the expected attainment level at the end of primary school, compared to 3% from affluent backgrounds.
  • Almost one in five children receive free school meals, yet this group accounts for fewer than one in a hundred Oxbridge students.
  • Only a quarter of boys from working-class backgrounds get middle-class (professional or managerial) jobs.
  • Just one in nine of those with parents from low income backgrounds reach the top income quartile, whereas almost half of those with parents in the top income quartile stay there.
  • Only 7% of the population attend independent schools, but the privately educated account for more than half of the top level of most professions, including 70% of high court judges, 54% of top journalists and 54% of chief executive officers of FTSE 100 companies.
  • The influence of parental income on the income of children in Britain is among the strongest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Parental income has over one and a half times the impact on male incomes in Britain compared with Canada, Germany and Sweden.

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Questionable decisions

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This is how it feels

Last week Lord Davis launched Women on Boards, which examines the gender imbalance at the top level in UK businesses. In 2010, women made up only 12.5% of the boards of FTSE 100 companies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimate that, at the current rate of change, it will take 70 years to achieve gender equality in the boardroom.

One half of the problem is to do with the ‘supply side’. Greater proportions of women with the potential to reach the boardroom step off the career ladder lower down to concentrate of family commitments. In addition, women seem to suffer more than men from lack of confidence in their own abilities and sense of worth. For example, they are less likely to initiate  salary negotiations — and when they do, they may get penalised more than men for doing so.

That last point indicates the other half of the problem. Why are the capable women who are still in the game not getting access to a proportionate number of powerful jobs?

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