Careers reveal class background: KPMG

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Social class is the biggest barrier to career progression, KPMG research finds

Pioneering study analysing 16,500 people’s careers reveals class background .

Article Posted date18 December 2022

 7 min read

Socio-economic background has the strongest effect on an individual’s career progression, compared to any other diversity characteristic, according to ground-breaking research published by KPMG UK.

In the biggest ‘progression gap’ analysis ever published by a business, experts from the Bridge Group analysed the career paths of over 16,500 partners and employees at KPMG over a five-year period. The team examined the average time it took individuals to be promoted, looking at their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation as well as socio-economic background.

The data showed that socio-economic background, measured by parental occupation, had the strongest effect on how quickly an individual progressed through the firm. Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds took on average 19% longer to progress to the next grade, when compared to those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.

The study is the latest advancement by KPMG to deepen understanding of social inequalities in the workplace, while sharing its insights with the wider business community. In 2021 it became the first organisation to report socio-economic background pay gaps and committed to increase the number of its leaders from low socio-economic backgrounds to 29% by 2030. A quarter of KPMG’s partners (25%) now come from low socio-economic backgrounds, up from 23% last year.

Nik Miller, Chief Executive at the Bridge Group, said:

“Driving greater social equality is the defining societal and economic challenge of our time. There remains a proven link between someone’s social background and their educational and employment outcomes and social inequality is estimated to cost the UK £39 billion per year. It is exacerbating lower levels of productivity, poor mental health, and diminishing people’s life expectancy.

“Progression is one of the truest indicators of inclusion in an organisation, across all and any diversity characteristics. KPMG’s research is pioneering, and we commend the firm for its leading-edge approach. The more we can highlight and understand the impacts of socio-economic background, including how it affects progression, the more we can create more equal outcomes for all. Talent and productivity must always be the basis for hiring and progression, and certainly prioritised over background.”

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