Seven reasons posh people are more likely to get higher pay jobs

Louis Dor
Thursday 01 September 2016 14:00
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Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A Government report into diversity in life sciences and investment banking has highlighted a culture of "opaque codes of conduct" that prevent applicants from less advantaged backgrounds from acceptance in the industries.

For example, in the UK while 7 per cent of students attend fee-paying schools, the Sutton Trust found in 2014 that 34 per cent of new investment bankers had attended a fee-paying school.

Here are a few of the rules that the report suggested lie beneath the surface:

1. Clothes

In this industry, as the report identifies, "expensive clothes signify success and therefore indicate to the client low risk".

The report provided the example of some senior investment bankers still deeming it "unacceptable for men to wear brown shoes with a business suit":

If you’ve got the wrong cut of suit, if you are wearing the wrong shoes, or tie, or you look awkward in a suit, you’re done before you start.

And unfortunately if you’ve never worn a suit before in your life, how are you going to do it?

2. Accent

The report found:

Indeed, the evidence presented here suggests that aspirant bankers can be ruled as unfit for the profession on the basis of speech, accent, dress or mannerism, even where their technical aptitude is exceptional.

3. Education

Recruitment was found to be diverse in terms of global reach, but narrow when it came to the UK.

The report found that recruitment leaned towards privately educated applicants, and when it came to higher education, the focus came primarily on a small number of elite institutions:

Target universities which supply particularly high numbers of graduates to the sector include London School of Economics (LSE); the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; Imperial College London, University College London, and the University of Warwick.

In addition, degree choice and calibre mattered immensely, as employers increasingly demanded STEM subject degrees, as well as first class or postgraduate degrees.

4. Confidence

The report identified that managers liked seeing an appropriate balance between ambition and deference in a hierarchical culture.

Interviewees said that private schooling was more likely to encourage the confidence and cultural capital that investment banks wanted to see:

You’ve been pushed quite academically from your peer group, your friendship peer group will probably be competitively pushing one another, your teachers will probably be pushing you, your parents would have been competitively pushing you, so when you come into this environment it’s probably a reflex that you just suddenly become competitive.

Another put it this way:

People who lack confidence, they won’t survive. They’ll just be crushed underfoot.

5. Interests

The report found bankers have a tendency to select candidates with whom they shared a social background or cultural interests:

You find people who maybe did the same course at university as you, maybe did the same sports or the same extra-curricular activity and you think 'well I’m successful, that person will also be successful'.

6. Contacts

People commented in the report that private school students were more likely to make use of contacts than state school students.

One respondent, who ran information events at schools around the country, said:

In private schools, students tend to e-mail me afterwards with questions – they see me as an opportunity to develop their science capital. However, students do not do this in state schools, they do not have that confidence or knowledge that you can make use of contacts.

So, it is not as simple as that the doors are not there, but that the confidence is not there to walk through.

7. Gender

The boys' club appears to be eroding, as the report acknowledged.

Some recruiters said the gender gap in recruitment was improving, but the report also found that gender balance was a leading issue at higher level and board level.

In addition, women with scientific degrees were less likely to pursue scientific professions.

Studies of the occupational outcomes of science, engineering and technology (SET) graduates, have shown that that women with scientific degrees are less likely to go into professional scientific jobs and also more likely to show higher levels of over-qualification.

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