A qualitative evaluation of non-educational barriers to the elite professions

Document type
Ashley, Louise; Duberley, Jo; Sommerlad, Hilary
Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission
Date of publication
14 June 2015
Social welfare
Material type

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This report sets out the findings from a qualitative study of barriers to entry to elite professions, focusing on two main areas. The first (Study A) examines the barriers to entry for people from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds to elite law and accountancy firms, with a particular focus on London. The second (Study B) examines the barriers to entry for people from similar backgrounds to elite financial service firms (including accountancy) located in Scotland. The study finds that despite their efforts to improve social inclusion over the past ten to fifteen years, these elite firms continue to be heavily dominated at entry level by people from more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds. This can be attributed primarily to a tendency to recruit the majority of new entrants from a narrow group of elite universities, where students are more likely to have attended selective or fee-paying schools, and/or come from relatively affluent backgrounds. In addition, elite firms define ‘talent’ according to a number of factors such as drive, resilience, strong communication skills and above all confidence and ‘polish’, which participants in the research acknowledged can be mapped on to middle-class status and socialisation

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