Financial industry urged to hire more working-class executives

Catherine McGuinness poses for a photo in London, Britain January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Financial services firms should set “ambitious targets” for appointing working-class people to senior positions, a report sponsored by the British government said on Thursday.

The financial industry is already working to appoint more women, black and minority ethnic people to boards and to positions such as CEOs and chairmen, but socio-economic background targets have less featured in corporate diversity efforts.

A government-mandated task force led by the City of London Corporation surveyed more than 9,000 employees at 49 financial and related professional firms and found the sector was out of step with society.

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The task force said 49% of all seniority levels in the financial sector came from a professional background, rising to 64% for senior managers. For the British population as a whole, 37% of working people come from a professional background.

Socioeconomic background can amplify other inequalities, particularly related to ethnicity and gender, he said.

Working-class employees, who are also women or an ethnic minority, are even less likely to hold leadership positions and less likely to feel included in the workplace.

White men from a professional background occupy 45% of senior positions, compared to 23% for their female counterparts, while only 13% of senior positions are occupied by white men from working-class families.

The survey defined the working class as having a parent working in a routine, manual occupation, such as receptionists, van drivers, plumbers and electricians.

The lack of inclusion of people from working class backgrounds poses a risk to employee retention and productivity in what is already a tight UK labor market, according to the task force report.

“These data provide a solid baseline against which the sector can begin to track its progress on socio-economic diversity and address the gaps,” said Catherine McGuinness, who chaired the task force.

“We urge companies to collect data, set ambitious goals and ensure they provide a level playing field for all.”

The report urges companies to join Progress Together, launched in May and which sets out good practice guides and benchmarking to drive change in socio-economic diversity.

Accountants KPMG has become one of the first UK companies to set a target for working-class staff to help close a pay gap and diversify its workforce. Read more

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Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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