If we were to tell you that you can accurately assess a stranger’s socioeconomic status based on brief speech patterns, would you believe us? A Yale study concluded that this is, in fact, true. You can indeed make a strong estimation of an individual’s income, education and occupation status when having just a brief conversation with them.
This automatic reaction has a huge influence on talent and the talent acquisition market today. A study by The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development in the UK highlighted that 76% of employers are influenced by regional accents during the interview process. Having this much subconscious power is dangerous, it assumes an individual’s ability to progress in their career is often based on bias and prejudice rather than objective merit and capability.
Recently PWC have proclaimed they are no longer limiting their applicants to individuals who have received a 2:1 and above. What does this mean? Historically, education informs initial assessments of socioeconomic status. Many believe their organisation is doing little to support the career development from those that come from a lower socio-economic background. It’s often perceived that, ‘Ivy League’ or ‘Red Brick’ University education is a privilege, and not a right. The facts are in the statistics, CMI found that 53% of those in management roles are from a high socio-economic background, compared to 38% from a low socio-economic background. And a third of respondents believe that socio-economic background is a barrier to progression to moving up to executive level, with 31% believing it is a barrier to achieving a role at middle management level within their organisations.
The UK Government have created many schemes and initiatives to help organisations lessen the focus on graduates and recognise school leavers as a strong talent choice. However, a study by CMI found that under 18% of businesses used the government funded traineeship schemes. By comparison, 3 times as many organisations are running graduate-only schemes.
What can you do to ensure you’re opening your talent pool and not supporting socio-economic bias in your interview process? Debiasing assessment and interviewing can be done, however it requires a very structured approach to the recruitment process that can feel particularly alien to hiring managers initially. Most importantly it requires a leadership team that accepts (and celebrates) that talent comes from everywhere and actively supports initiatives to reach underrepresented talent.
Do you want to know how you can beat the bias? Get in touch with us to join one of our ED&I workshops hosted by co-founder Adam Tobias.