Insights for Organisations

How Can We Improve Social Mobility in Technology?

Paul Brown
07.12.23

In the dynamic landscape of the UK’s technology sector, the conversation around social mobility has recently gained prominence. As the industry continues to evolve, so does the need to create pathways for individuals from diverse backgrounds to access and thrive within the tech workforce. At FDM, we are committed to facilitating social mobility and creating opportunities for everyone to succeed in tech careers, regardless of their background. We believe that every business has a duty to do the same. So, we’ve explored some of the key social mobility challenges in the technology sector and provided advice on how organisations can overcome them. Learn more…

What’s in this article?

Summary

While social mobility in the technology sector remains a challenge on several fronts, bridging the social mobility gap presents a vast opportunity, especially with the sector’s high job demand. Unlike other fields, technology embraces multiple entry routes, emphasising skills over formal qualifications. This inclusivity accommodates diverse educational backgrounds, fostering a more varied workforce. To harness this potential, organisations must prioritise skills in hiring, invest in upskilling, support young talent through mentorship, and provide accessibility for all backgrounds. Partnering with a talent solutions provider that is focused on diversity and inclusion can also prove effective, helping your organisation benefit from social diversity, while also contributing to improved social mobility on an industry scale.

What is social mobility?

Social mobility refers to the ability of individuals to move within the social hierarchy, often measured by changes in economic status, education, or professional occupation over time. It reflects the extent to which people can improve or decline in their socioeconomic standing through opportunities of upward or downward mobility in a society.

What are the benefits of social diversity in technology?

Social diversity in the technology sector offers multifaceted advantages that are pivotal for organisational success and for facilitating social mobility on a wider scale. Diverse teams fuel innovation by integrating a wide array of perspectives, fostering creativity, and enhancing problem-solving capabilities. This inclusivity not only contributes to improved decision-making and market responsiveness but also positions organisations competitively on a global scale. Furthermore, beyond the tangible business benefits, fostering social diversity attracts and retains top talent, creating a workplace where employees are more engaged, satisfied, and likely to contribute to long-term stability.

The immense potential to increase social mobility in technology

There is immense opportunity for the technology sector to facilitate social mobility, perhaps even more so than most other industries.

The technology industry is a profession that opens more career opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds. Unlike other esteemed and high-earning industries, such as law, medicine, or dentistry, where stringent academic qualifications are often prerequisites, the tech sector embraces multiple entry routes. For individuals looking to start a career in technology, formal qualifications and higher education are not universally mandatory for pursuing a rewarding career.  For example, if someone is fortunate enough to be born into a family with enough money to fund medical school, they might be more likely to have the opportunity to succeed as a doctor. Whereas, someone looking to start a prosperous career as a Software Developer can enrol in a free online coding course. This inclusivity opens doors for talent from various educational backgrounds, promoting a more diverse workforce.

The emphasis in the tech industry is often on skills, innovation, and practical experience, allowing individuals to showcase their capabilities and contribute meaningfully to the sector’s rapid evolution. This accessibility not only democratises access to high-earning opportunities but also fosters an environment where merit and passion hold as much weight as formal credentials, making the technology industry a realm of limitless potential for aspiring professionals.

Social mobility challenges in the technology sector

Diversity in the technology sector still has a way to go. According to reports by Diversity in Tech, only 8.5% of senior leaders in Britain’s largest tech firms come from minority backgrounds. The report also revealed a clear issue of elitism within the technology industry with 35% of tech board members and 26% of senior executives having attended Oxford or Cambridge University. This is particularly shocking with just 1% of the UK’s population attending these universities overall. The same goes for private education. In fact, 37% of tech board members and 31% of senior executives attended private school, compared to 7% of the overall population. Things must change!

One of the key challenges contributing to this lack of social diversity in the technology sector is a limited talent pipeline due to perceived image of the industry. For example, in a study by Samsung, 50% of young people say they perceive the technology sector to be ‘competitive’ and 28% believe it’s only for people good at maths and science. These assumptions are just one of the factors holding individuals back from pursuing their dream career in tech.

Yet, that’s not to suggest that there isn’t a huge opportunity for technology organisations to close the social mobility gap and diversify the tech workforce. In fact, with 51,000 vacant jobs in IT in the UK, as of 2023, improving social mobility in tech could be just the ticket.

How can we improve social mobility in the technology sector?

There are a number of ways organisations can improve social mobility in the technology sector and in their own businesses, including the following:

  1. Hiring for skills
  2. Investing in upskilling
  3. Supporting young talent
  4. Providing accessibility for all backgrounds
  5. Partnering with a talent solutions provider

1. Hiring for skills

Education vs experience is an age-old debate when it comes to hiring new employees. While many employers still focus on education and academic background when employing new staff, it should not stand as the be all and end all. Experience and existing skills should come first, especially if you are looking to build a more diverse workforce with greater resilience. You should prioritise skills over traditional educational qualifications. Recognise the value of practical experience and consider candidates with diverse educational backgrounds to promote inclusivity and tap into a broader talent pool.

2. Investing in upskilling

It is beneficial to invest in upskilling programmes that will empower individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds and give them the support they need to enter the sector. Likewise, this should provide opportunities for continuous learning within the organisation, allowing employees to acquire new skills and advance in their careers.

Yet, it is imperative that you communicate your commitment to upskilling and investment in training and development externally in order to ensure potential candidates are aware. This will make your company more enticing and accessible to a wider group of candidates, including those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

3. Supporting young talent

The report by Samsung also revealed that 47% of young people believe they simply need the right support in order to innovate and contribute ideas to the tech industry. Despite the perceived barriers to entry, 76% believe there is untapped potential in young people in the tech industry.

Therefore, in addition to upskilling for all employees, it is key to acknowledge the untapped potential of young people in the tech industry in particular. Offer the necessary support, mentorship, apprenticeships, job shadowing opportunities, and resources to empower young talent to break through barriers and contribute to technological innovation.

4. Providing accessibility for all backgrounds

Creating an inclusive environment that is accessible to individuals from all backgrounds is key to facilitating social mobility. Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives can help make the tech industry more accessible to women, individuals with disabilities, and minority groups for example. There are many different diversity and inclusion initiatives to consider, such as employee resource groups and diversity training for managers and senior staff. For example, providing accommodations for those with hidden disabilities or offering family-friendly work policies and benefits  opens up opportunities for these individuals.

5. Partnering with a talent solutions provider

A talent solutions partnership can transform your organisation and help you source talent from a diverse pool. Yet, it is important to choose the right partner that specialises in diversity and inclusion. At FDM, we have over 30 years of experience partnering with businesses to offer talent acquisition solutions that support their goals, helping them source diverse talent and improve social mobility within the technology sector. Learn more about our technical consultant services.

FDM at the forefront of social mobility in technology

At FDM, our dedication to enhancing social mobility in the technology sector is unwavering, reflected in our 34th position among the top 75 UK organisations committed to social mobility. We are delighted to have ranked higher up from 48th last year. We empower our candidates with the necessary opportunities and training to forge successful careers. Our goal is to provide our clients with access to a diverse talent pool, featuring a range of skill sets, knowledge from diverse backgrounds, and creative minds poised to add value to your teams.

Embark on our mission to elevate social mobility across the UK. Explore our technical consultant services or reach out to us for further information.