‘Socio-economic background’ is the term to refer to the particular set of social and economic circumstances that an individual has come from. It permits objective discussion of the influence of these circumstances on individuals’ educational and career trajectories; and it can be objectively measured by capturing information on parental occupation and level of education.
Class can be a loaded term. Class encompasses a range of socio-cultural and geographical factors. Objective measures of assessing family income may not necessarily match up with individuals’ perceptions of their social class status, and individuals may feel less comfortable talking about social class. However, class can invoke a range of tacit assumptions and practices, from how to dress and talk to food choices and hobbies, and using it can expose the negative ways that these assumptions affect attitudes and behaviours. In this toolkit, we use the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification groupings.
Those from ‘professional’ backgrounds are from managerial and professional backgrounds. Examples include: CEOs, senior police officers, doctors, journalists, barristers, solicitors, teachers and nurses. Those from ‘working class’ backgrounds are from routine and manual occupations. Examples include: receptionists, electricians, plumbers, butchers and van drivers.
Social mobility is the link between an individual’s income and occupation and the income and occupation of their parents. It is about where people end up in comparison to their parents or relative to their peers. It is widely adopted as a way of describing the importance of creating opportunities for individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds to enable them to become more economically successful.
This term captures the importance of recognising and valuing difference among individuals, along the lines of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, age, and disability, for example. It generally refers to increasing the representation of groups that are under-represented in organisations. It must however be understood alongside ‘inclusion’. Diversity in and of itself does not result in an inclusive environment.
This is the meaningful achievement of diversity. This involves creating the conditions to ensure individuals from diverse backgrounds are valued and treated equally, feel empowered and are able to progress.
Individuals do not experience their diversity characteristics in isolation: these characteristics overlap and collide to compound the experience of inequality. For example, patterns of progression in the firm will vary not only by gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background, but by combinations of all three. Policy and practice need to recognise the convergence of factors and respond accordingly.