A book by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison describes how women in elite occupations face a 'double pay penalty' if they are from a working class background.
The research, which looked at professions as varied as finance, medicine, television, architecture, and law, illustrated a near 60 per cent pay gap between the least advantaged women and the most advantaged men.
In the professional services sector, working class women were seen to earn on average £7,500 per year less than women from upper middle class backgrounds. These upper middle class women – in turn – earned £11,500 less than men from similarly privileged backgrounds.
The research suggests that the experience of upward mobility is particularly difficult for women. Respondents felt they were scrutinised more carefully in the workplace in terms of how they negotiate dominant behavioural codes in areas like dress, self-presentation and accent.
A separate UCL study found that 28% of the UK population feel that they have been discriminated against due to their regional accent, while 80% of employers admit to this discrimination.
"This, combined with discriminatory attitudes, such as those uncovered by the Government's Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which found that entry into elite firms continues to be dominated by people from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds, having a Liverpudlian accent could act as an unfounded barrier to career progression or social acceptance."
So what does that mean for employers? At a minimum there is a need to be mindful about the intersectionality between gender and class.
But, on a more practical note:
- For apprenticeship and graduate comms ensure you are not using jargon e.g. a 'vacation scheme' which might only be known to those already exposed to law i.e. through a parent
- Use film and Social to break down barriers between your organisation and candidates. A common question for Apprentices before their first interview is "What should I wear?". Give candidates the tools they need to succeed
- Introduce assessment and selection processes that are designed to be unbiased - consider Chrome extension tools which removes address and education from LinkedIn profiles and CVs
- Consider your dress code and policy on self-presentation. Is it relevant, or necessary?
- Be aware of your personal bias and challenge it.
“It is telling that no female equivalent exists of the heroic tale of the ‘working-class boy made good’. Instead stereotypes of upwardly mobile women tend to be particularly stigmatising, emphasising pretentiousness and pushiness.”