How did the BBC's 'Breaking into the Elite' make you feel?
How did the BBC's 'Breaking into the Elite' make you feel?

How did the BBC's 'Breaking into the Elite' make you feel?

Posted on: 10/09/2019

Claire Farrow, Outsource UK's Inclusion & Diversity Partner, offers her opinion of the recent BBC show aimed at helping people break down social barriers and exclusion.

Seeing the statistics day in, day out, I wasn’t shocked by what I saw during this hour-long television programme. However, if I’m honest, I wasn’t prepared for the mixture of emotions I would feel throughout, with the overriding feeling being that of anger. Anger at the system. Because it’s the system that controls our minds, it’s the system that defines our decisions, and it’s the system that determines our future.

A test of social interaction

The interview process is often as much a test of social interaction, as it is academic or technical ability, and for many, whether lacking in confidence, formal training, or simply thinking differently, the system is broken.

What’s more, it doesn’t stop there, and if you’re lucky enough to secure your dream role, on top of completing your tasks to the best of your ability, there’s the matter of ‘cultural fit’ to tackle. Who has been party (or not) to ‘offline’ work conversations ‘down the pub’, or invited to X’s birthday meal at that swanky new restaurant in town when payday couldn’t come soon enough, or had to join a meeting remotely only to spend the entire call piecing together muddled conversations because the open-plan office environment doesn’t work for you?

Those from privileged backgrounds, with 2:2s, are more likely to get a top job than working-class students are, from the same universities, graduating with a 1st.

During the programme, Sociologist Dr Sam Friedman, explained that those from privileged backgrounds, with 2:2s, are more likely to get a top job than working-class students are, from the same universities, graduating with a 1st. His research also tells us that black, British, working-class women earn, on average, £20,000 less per year than their privileged-origin white male colleagues. 

So what can we do about it?

We need to reframe the system. We need to start taking risks, because that comfort blanket of “we’ve always done it that way”, is not working and we need to help the pipeline.

Some businesses have already reported removing degree classification requirements, accepting applicants from ALL universities, and tackling unconscious bias, but we do also need to help those who haven’t reached the point of application, or are lacking the confidence to submit that request for promotion.

We must ‘not simply unlock the door, but open it’

At a recent event organised by the Tech Talent Charter in Cheltenham, Baroness Rennie Fritchie explained that we must ‘not simply unlock the door, but open it’ and this has stuck in my mind ever since.

Are we being proactive enough?

I have seen some organisations mandate executive team reverse mentoring, support local communities with CV writing and interview practice, and replace traditional application processes with paid work placements, but surely, there is more, and I want to be part of it.

I would love to hear your ideas, lived experiences, positive outcomes, and challenges, so please, don’t hesitate to contact me at cfarrow@outsource-uk.co.uk or message me through LinkedIn for a chat. 

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