Socio-Economic Background: 75th Anniversary Poll

Thursday 18 November 2021
CMI is celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2022! To mark this milestone, our President, Lord Mark Price, is leading a commission looking at what ‘good’ modern management and leadership looks like in the 21st century, and the implications for best practice
CMI-75th-Anniversary-Opengraph (1)

The aim is to help us better understand inclusive leadership, and make recommendations for immediate, practical actions that governments, organisations and leaders can implement immediately to make workplaces more fair and inclusive.

As part of this project, CMI is conducting a series of polls on five central topics: ethnicity, socio-economic background, gender, disability and age. October saw the launch of our first poll on ethnicity; this month we are surveying on socio-economic background.

But, what exactly do we mean by socio-economic background? How does an individual’s background impact their Management and Leadership opportunities? What can organisations do to improve socio-economic diversity in the workplace?

Find out about our 75th Anniversary

Take a look at our 75th Anniversary celebrations and view the latest research and professional practice.

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Firstly, what does ‘socio-economic background’ mean?

An individual’s socio-economic background is defined as the combination of social and economic factors that determine their success and future life prospects in relation to others. These measures include income, education, occupation and social background. 

Socio-economic background, or status (SES), has been historically split into three categories: high, middle and low. However, more recent research has nuanced this definition in the UK. The Office for National Statistics uses eight analytic classes in order to assess an individual’s socio-economic background based on the occupation of their highest-earning parent: from 1 (Higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations) to 8 (Never worked and long-term unemployed).

How does an individual’s socio-economic background impact their Management and Leadership opportunities?

The lack of Management and Leadership opportunities for those from deprived backgrounds compared to those from more affluent backgrounds has been well documented. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are much less likely to have access to higher education, as well as CPD and upskilling opportunities in employment. This disproportionately affects chances for career progression toward higher salaried positions. 

These individuals exist in greater job insecurity and instability in comparison to those advantaged by their socio-economic backgrounds. They are several times more at risk of becoming unemployed, of being unable to find stable employment, and consequently of being made homeless and suffering from health issues (Social Mobility Commission’s Apprenticeships Toolkit, see p.9). 

Ultimately, socio-economic background can fix an individual on a certain professional path. This is not a one-size-fits-all measure of an individual’s career success; yet, it is clear that those from low socio-economic backgrounds face greater adversity in achieving life goals taken for granted by those from more affluent origins. 

How are organisations maximising socio-economic diversity in their teams?

In order to ensure that we are attracting individuals based on merit and potential, and facilitating opportunities to thrive and progress, we must build inclusive workplace cultures and celebrate diversity. 

Paul Growney CMgr CCMI, Chief Executive Officer at charity Caring Connections, has highlighted the need for nuanced approaches to developing employees from less privileged areas and backgrounds:

“As a charitable organisation we pride ourselves on supporting the most deprived communities. We have ensured to develop an inclusive strategy which incorporates our organisational growth into areas with socio-economic issues. As part of this approach, we aim to build and develop staff from within these areas, building a localised inclusive approach to Management and Leadership.”

Earlier this year, the Social Mobility Commission highlighted the strategic focus of Superdrug and Savers on maximising socio-economic diversity in their organisations. This was approached by creating shared, cohesive culture and leadership on the importance of social mobility in the workplace, interweaving inclusion and diverse talent at every level. 

CMI has found that management apprenticeships are helping to introduce greater diversity in the management pipeline. Our analysis of 2019/20 National Apprenticeship Data indicated that 44% of management apprentices came from England’s 50% most socio-economically deprived areas.

What can you do to make a difference?

Refining the quality of data on socio-economic background in the workplace can be an important step for organisations to improve their diversity and inclusivity. This can facilitate informed, targeted actions to tackle barriers to those disadvantaged by their socio-economic backgrounds.

CMI polled our Community to find out more about what organisations can do to improve socio-economic diversity in their teams. Take a look at the Socio-Economic discussion paper and find practical advice and guidance to support you and your team day-to-day.

For more information about how we can use data and apprenticeships to understand and improve workplace socio-economic diversity, see the Social Mobility Commission’s Apprenticeships Toolkit released in October 2021.


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