Posts Tagged social mobility
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.
Are you successful in your career?
How do you know?
Traditionally, there are two ways of measuring career success:
- objective success — externally measurable things such as salary level, number of promotions, etc.
- subjective success — internal, psychological factors, such as level of career satisfaction, happiness, etc.
These two types of success can sometimes be related, i.e. the more objective success you achieve, the more subjective success you experience. However, they can also be unrelated. So, other people might perceive you as being successful, but you don’t feel it, or you might be really happy in your work even though other people might think you haven’t had much of a career.
Is there a way of predicting what factors lead to objective or subjective career success? Well, lots of researchers have tried to answer that question. Vast numbers of researchers have tried to examine the link between a range of attributes and the likelihood of a good career outcome. That’s far too much reading for me! I’d like someone else to do it for me…
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?
Is four too much for you?
Last week I presented a few career-style typologies that came in sets of four, but it’s entirely possible that remembering four types might be too much for you — it often is for me.
So, how about just two types: Players and Purists. These two archetypes represent extreme approaches that graduates may take in managing their employability.
They were identified by Phil Brown and Anthony Hesketh from Lancaster University in their book The MisManagement of Talent: Employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy.
A few concepts that I blogged about have been floating round in my head for a while. A recent discussion with a client made them come together.
She was talking about how her educational background in Africa had given her a particular mindset about career success. She explained that in her home country, passing a relevant professional examination pretty much guaranteed an appropriate job. When she came to the UK, it was a great shock to her that just having good qualifications was not enough. She had been surprised at the emphasis placed on demonstrating acceptable personal qualities and the importance of networking. It had taken her quite a while to overcome this mindset, and even now her initial reaction when faced with a career challenge was to think about what training she could obtain.
She was quite surprised when I told her that it wasn’t just people from outside the UK that suffered from this blinkered attitude to employability and career success.
In Part One I outlined four triggers that have started me thinking about the purpose of guidance. In this post I want to share some of those thoughts. They are not complete thoughts by any means and are mostly in the form of questions.
How green is my guidance?
When Bill Law started making comments on Twitter that an awareness of climate change should be a key component of career guidance, I had an uncomfortable reaction. ‘How is this my job?’ I thought, ‘Surely, we should be responding to the client’s priorities rather than forcing them to think about global/societal issues if they don’t want to.’
I suspect a lot of careers advisers would respond the same way. Many of us have been brought up with a client-centred, non-directive approach (dare I say indoctrinated?). We have a voice in our heads which says, ‘We are not here to influence the client. The client knows best what they want. We are merely facilitators.‘ But is that entirely true? Has it ever been true?
Bill Law is a bit of a guru when it comes to careers theory — he developed the DOTS framework which is used frequently in careers education. He even has his own website www.hihohiho.com and twitter following. He constantly argues for a more radical, activist perspective on careers guidance and education, embracing complexity and reforming careers to also consider life-role related learning. More recently he’s done some work on storyboarding as David has mentioned in his earlier post.
But going back to the classics — in 1981, Law introduced his Community Interaction Theory. He suggested that some of the most influential factors in career choice relate to events which occur in the context of ‘community interaction’ between the individual and the social groups of which she or he is a member. If theories such as Circumscription and Compromise talk about the impact of society pressures on our decision making process, Community Interaction focuses on some of the mechanisms by which this takes place.
Peter Mandelson and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have launched Higher Ambitions, the new framework for higher education.
Some news commentators have picked up on the recommendations that universities take more account of the social context of candidates during university recruitment and to prioritise measures that widen access to those from underprivileged backgrounds.
Even if one achieves the laudable aim of getting more students from deprived upbringings into higher education, will they be fully equipped to take advantage of the opportunity in order to develop their career decision making?
A report by Paul Greenbank and Sue Hepworth from Edge Hill University, Working class students and the career decision-making process, looks at ways in which the working class students who make it to university can still be disadvantaged in the job market. It makes interesting reading and challenges some of the assumptions that are made about such issues.
- What are we doing to equip and re-equip underprivileged students when they get to university?
- Should we have targetted programmes in place to help deal with the disadvantages that such students may carry with them?
Related post: Let the right one in
Hunting of foxes with dogs is (for the moment) banned in the UK. However, hunting of careers advisers with questionable research is still apparently legal. There have been a number of instances over the last few months of careers-adviser bashing by various bodies.
- ‘Throughout our work we have barely heard a good word about the careers work of the current Connexions service.’ – from the Unleashing Aspirations report by the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions (Summary and Recommendations, section 5.3, p. 34). [See Let the right one in for more comment on this report.]
- ‘The girls told us that, in their view, the quality of careers advice from Connexions is poor.’ – from the Shaping a Fairer Future report by the Women and Work Commission (p. 13).
- ‘Our research found that one in five people has needed to retrain or reskill as a result of unsatisfactory careers advice.’ – quote from Chris Jones, Director of City & Guilds in The Times, 9 September 2009.
Because these are not published in peer-reviewed journals they don’t have to explain exactly how they conducted their research and obtained their ‘evidence’. It’s very easy to produce dodgy statistics to support an argument which pushes your own predetermined agenda.
Read the rest of this entry »
Unleashing Aspirations, the final report from the governmental Panel on Fair Access to the Professions has been released. The report looks at social mobility in the UK and specifically entry into society’s top jobs and professions, such as lawyers, civil servants, doctors, bankers, journalists and university vice chancellors.
Not surprisingly, the report shows that most professions have become increasingly exclusive, with increasing proportions of members coming from families with above average incomes. It criticises the professions for recruitment practices that directly and indirectly discriminate against students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Plus ça change…!
In 1968 Ken Roberts proposed his Theory of Occupational Allocation (or Opportunity Structure theory as it became known). After researching into the jobs of school leavers he proposed that individual choice had less of an impact on career destination than the social proximity of the options available based on gender, ethnicity and social class.
More recent theoretical concepts along similar lines have included habitus and social capital.
Careers - in Theory is a blog from The Careers Group, University of London.
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