Session One: Access into law, finance and professional services

This was first session of the Social Mobility APPG’s Inquiry into Access into Leading Professions, looking at how we can improve the chances of disadvantaged young people getting into the top professions.

This session explored the perception that law, finance and professional services are dominated by people from particular demographic backgrounds. The session asked whether this is the case, how we can address the issue if so, and what is being done by charities and the professions to widen access.

The first panel discussion, hearing from leaders from charities raising the issues around widening access, was very wide-ranging, from the educational issues that create obstacles for young people to getting top jobs, as well as the cultural and socio-economic barriers to access that frustrate opportunity.

The second panel discussion, hearing from leaders from leading professions themselves, was focused on what the professions themselves are doing to widen access.

The panel acknowledged the power of data to sharpen the focus of business, the significance of work experience, the importance of capturing talent far and wide, as well as the need for business to take a lead on the social mobility agenda.

The key conclusions were:

  1. The significance of work experience – offering it more widely to disadvantaged young people to spread opportunity and counterbalance networking effects.

  2. Encouraging school-employer collaboration – for schools and business to work together to offer pupils experience, mentoring opportunities, and understanding of various professions.

  3. The importance of high quality careers advice – so that pupils can better understand what it takes to get into the top professions, the courses they should study and the experience they should have.

  4. Contextualising recruitment – greater recognition in recruitment processes of an applicant’s background, reducing bias, and that academic attainment is not the sole measure of ability.

  5. Promoting the evaluation of impact – to ensure firms identify what works and spread of good practice, so that interventions are focused and lead to positive outcomes.

  6. A need for greater data transparency – for recruiters, researchers and the public to better understand the background of employees for the accountability of professions and their leaders.

  7. Advocating the business case for widening access – framing social mobility as a strategic issue that widens the talent pool, enhances diversity, improves productivity and outcomes for business.

A detailed report of the session can be found here.