Diverse IT podcast: Cracking the class ceiling, Dr Sam Friedman

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Is success in elite occupations simply a matter of ‘legitimate fortune’? Or are there hidden mechanisms at play rooted in work cultures historically shaped by the privileged? What can companies do TODAY to champion talent from disadvantaged backgrounds?

In this episode of our DiverseIT podcast, we speak with Dr. Sam Friedman, one of the UK’s leading experts in social mobility, an associate professor in sociology at LSE, commissioner of the UK Social Mobility Commission, and co-author of The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged (2019).

The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceiling’, preventing women and ethnic minorities from getting to the top are well documented, but the upwardly mobile also face a powerful and previously unrecognised ‘class gap’ within Britain’s elite occupations, both within and beyond technology.

Key takeaways from the podcast include; 

  1. Measure and monitor class background: the first step towards meaningful change is accurate measurement.
  2. Find out whether your organisation has a class ceiling: effective measurement has two dimensions. Organisations need to understand the overall class composition of their workforce, but it’s also important that they do not stop there. We would urge firms to investigate whether they too have a class ceiling. What mechanisms of discrimination (direct and indirect) are at work to create this class ceiling?
  3. Start a conversation about Talent: how does your company define and measure ‘merit’? Are these measures performance-driven, or subjective?
  4. Take intersectionality seriously: some employees may face a double disadvantage in relation to social background and gender, race, ethnicity, disability, or orientation.
  5. Educate your employees: create educational opportunities within the organisation to eliminate low-level but constant microaggressions leading to feelings of ‘otherness’.

Read more about Sam Friedman’s work in The Guardian