Financial and professional services
Sub-sector specific guidance
The Solicitors Regulation Authority requires law firms to collect and publish diversity data about their staff, including data about social mobility. For further details about the requirements and the social mobility data that must be collected, please view their website. The guidance also covers the requirement to publish the data, given the data protection issues and the challenge of publishing for smaller firms. The data collected from law firms is used by the SRA to publish a diversity profile of the profession.
The SRA will be introducing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) from September 2021, a new examination which will give employers the assurance that everyone meets the same standards, regardless of their background. School-leaver solicitor apprentices and students from all universities and law schools will have to pass the same exam from a single provider to gain admission. There is much greater flexibility in the routes a candidate can take to meet the new requirements. Employers will be able to use standardised data from the SQE in their recruitment. They will also be able to take advantage of new, flexible training routes to broaden the pool of candidates from which they are used to recruiting.
Leverage legal networks
Prime Commitment is an alliance of law firms across the UK, committed to improving access to the legal profession through work experience. LawSMART is an association of law firms. The group was set up and is chaired by the chair of the Prime Commitment.
The ICAEW requires firms registered with it for legal services to collect data, and encourages accountancy firms to do so as well. Please refer to their website for any regulatory data requirements. The data collected from legal services registered firms is used by ICAEW to publish a diversity profile of these accountancy firms.
ICAEW support employers in recruiting talent from a diverse audience via various initiatives and routes into the profession. The training offered to an ACA ensures that every student from whatever background enters the profession with a core knowledge, skills and experience tool kit, which will enable them to thrive in the career.
Leverage legal networks
Access Accountancy exists to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of accessing the accountancy profession based on merit, not background.
Socio-economic background refers 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. It can be objectively measured by capturing information on parental occupation and level of education.
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.
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.
This term captures the importance of recognising and valuing difference among individuals, e.g. along the lines of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, age or disability. 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.
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.
This is the meaningful achievement of diversity. This involves creating the conditions to ensure individuals from diverse backgrounds are valued and treated equitably, feel empowered and are able to progress.
These can be defined as everyday words or acts that send denigrating messages to certain groups who are perceived (or perceive themselves) as ‘different’ (e.g. in terms of race, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background). They are subtle demeaning comments or statements, which, over time, make individuals feel inferior or excluded. Members of the dominant culture are often unaware that certain comments or behaviours may be causing harm as there is no intention to offend. Relatively insignificant issues can build up to become extremely problematic as constant small comments gradually erode employees’ confidence, self-belief and sense of belonging.
Bridging the opportunity gap is more important than ever as the recent crisis risks leaving people behind. At Accenture we are committed to improving economic diversity and enabling people from all walks of life to thrive in the increasingly digital economy. By providing access
to market relevant skills, mentoring and work experience opportunities, we are engaging with diverse talent to help level the playing field both within and outside of Accenture.
– Camilla Drejer, UKI Social Mobility Sponsor, Accenture
“Society rightly expects our sector to consider a wide range of responsibilities, including reflecting the needs of communities we operate in. Building a genuinely diverse and inclusive workplace where people from all backgrounds get fair and equal opportunities to progress
is a big part of this, crucial to our culture and future business success. This toolkit shares proven, practical approaches to improve social mobility across all areas of employment practices and we welcome its publication.”
– Sandy MacDonald, Global Head of Corporate Sustainability Standard Life Aberdeen plc