Most employers have long been alive to issues of diversity in business in terms of protected characteristics such as race, sex and disability. But what about class? Socio-economic grouping is not a protected characteristic, so is seeking to ensure a certain percentage of ‘working class’ employees a hurdle too far?
Not for KPMG, who have announced a new target that 29 per cent of partners and directors should come from a ‘working class’ background by 2030. Employees with parents in manual jobs, such as plumbers, electricians, butchers and van drivers, will meet the definition of ‘working class’ for this target. The firm told Personnel Today that 23 per cent of its partners and 20 per cent of its directors currently meet this definition. The firm said that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds were paid on average 8.6 per cent less than those whose parents worked in management or professional jobs. The firm also plans to train all its staff on the invisible barriers that exist to those from less affluent backgrounds. The Chair of KPMG comes from a working class background herself and says she is a passionate believer that greater diversity improves business performance, brings fresh thinking and a wider perspective on decision making, all of which deliver better outcomes for clients.
KPMG is not alone in recognising that talent lies in every demographic but that people from lower socio-economic groups often have less opportunity to seek out those professional roles. This is unfair for job seekers but also denies business the widest pool from which to seek the very best talent. Creating targets means that the impetus for providing that opportunity lies with the business, levelling the playing field and creating more opportunity for those who need it. Seeking out new pools of talent from potentially untapped sources good for diversity and diversity is good for business. Our differences are often our strengths.