Opportunity. The chance to make the best of yourself, no matter what your background, colour, accent, sexuality or gender. Social mobility would seem to make common sense, but as we heard today in an Anthony Collins Solicitors hosted roundtable, there is still much work to do to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to succeed.
We were reminded of a sobering context; the UK is 21st on the global index of social mobility (found here), behind many other European countries. We heard stories of attendees who had been told there was no point their pursuing a career in their chosen profession, because they were female and without "connections". We heard that 90,000 children will be behind in basic literacy because of the pandemic, literacy being a key enabler of social progress. Even when people from disadvantaged backgrounds make it into the professions, on average they are paid 17% less than their counterparts.
The importance of aspiration was something we touched on; "if you can't see it, you can't be it". We heard inspiring stories of work with offenders, where lives had been transformed by supportive employment before and after release. We were also challenged on our use of negative language about neighbourhoods, people, backgrounds - and jobs.
We were joined in a fascinating discussion by Kate Green MP, the shadow secretary of state for education, demonstrating Labour's commitment to the subject, along with a range of senior colleagues from housing associations, the co-op movement, the care sector, and PwC and Timpsons. Both the latter organisations shared something of the amazing work that they have done to actively reach out to communities that can struggle to reach the labour market.
This is a conversation that we have been inspired to continue, and one that connects with our work around the broader aspirations for business in the Ethical Business Project. HR and employment practice is one of the key areas that we highlight in our handbook.
We were left inspired but also challenged - how can every organisation play its part in making sure everyone gets the opportunity the deserve? How can we make sure no one is left behind? This is surely the time to ensure we build back inclusively, to make sure it really is better - for everyone.
Most economies are failing to provide the conditions in which their citizens can thrive, often by a large margin. As a result, an individual’s opportunities in life remain tethered to their socio-economic status at birth, entrenching historical inequalities.