Following on from our recent masterclasses that discussed ‘Accents in the Workplace’ and ‘The art of using storytelling to building inclusion’, it is clear that it is important to address the conversation about class in the workplace.
In organisations across the UK, there are conversations about the importance of diversity and inclusion going on at every level in your workforce – but whilst this may address the experiences of different groups in the modern workforce, there’s a strong chance that class and socio-economic background (SEB) isn’t yet being discussed.
However, we know it should be. Following our employer consultation last year, it is apparent that for organisations to build a culture of inclusion, they have to position ‘social mobility as a key priority.’ To do so, they need to talk about class in the workplace.
Research has shown that whether they’re looking to get hired, network or secure a promotion, employees from a low socio-economic background can experience barriers that hinder their progression. As a result, many find themselves struggling to match the progress of their higher SEB colleagues or hiding their background in order to do so.
An inclusive environment where employees can talk openly about class and SEB is a more inclusive workplace – one where low SEB colleagues feel able to bring their whole selves to work, where high SEB colleagues can better understand what it means to be an ally, and where myths and stereotypes can be challenged openly. Done right, it should help to debias your processes and improve employee retention.
Our next employer masterclass will explore what a healthy, inclusive conversation about class and socio-economic background looks like, and how you can help everyone in your workplace to get involved.
We will cover:
- How do you talk openly about class in the workplace?
- How can people start the conversation?
- How can employers build the narrative?
- How do they make it a safe space to do so?
- How do you ensure that it is talked about from top to bottom (and the other way)?
- What role do allies play?
We’ll be joined by Sophie Hulm, CEO of Progress Together and Jenny Sandham, Social Mobility Champion, Ministry of Defence.
About the speakers
Sophie Hulm, CEO, Progress Together.
As Head of Skills Policy at the City of London, Sophie was the founder and architect of a Government commissioned Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce. Sophie sees a clear link between the skills and labour challenges which exist in UK financial services and the need for greater socio-economic diversity at senior levels. Sophie joined Progress Together as Chief Executive in September 2022.
Sophie currently sits on the SteerCo for the 30% Club and has led a number of high-profile initiatives including the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards. Throughout her working life Sophie has focused on the power of business to bring about change, including working for a welfare-to-work organisation, a Corporate Responsibility membership body, and as a trustee for Governors for Schools.
Her dad is a working-class East Londoner and her mum a retired academic with immigrant parents. She lives with her partner and two mixed-race children who are big fans of Pokemon and Octonauts.
Progress Together is a not-for-profit membership body that launched in May 2022 to create equity of progression for individuals in the financial services sector.
Jenny Sandham, Social Mobility Champion, Ministry of Defence.
Jenny is a Senior Civil Servant in the Ministry of Defence and their Social Mobility Champion. Jenny has progressed from an administrative assistant within the Civil Service to a Senior Civil Servant working across a range of departments! She left school at 16 and got her first degree 10 years into her career. She is now about to finish her MSc having worked as a Civil Servant for 22 years. When she applied to the Civil Service’s award-winning Fast Stream programme, which develops talented, high-potential people to become future Civil Service leaders, she was a single parent and a carer for her brother (and still is). Jenny is an advocate for social mobility and ensuring that opportunities are open for all, regardless of an individual’s background.