Social Mobility Day 2024

June 13th 2024 is Social Mobility Day, and to raise awareness, Saxton Bampfylde’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion committee hosted a Talk and Q&A session for our partners where we were joined by Vicki Hopkins from the Phoenix Group, members of Progress Together. Social Mobility Day highlights the importance of creating equality of opportunity by identifying and removing barriers, emphasising that while talent is equally distributed, access and opportunity are not.

As an executive search firm, we understand the importance of having a breadth of candidates in all senses of the word. By considering individuals from various backgrounds, including socio – economic, we can access a wider range of skills, perspectives, and experiences, leading to innovative and effective leadership and decision making.

Progress Together is an organisation that collaborates with UK financial services employers to enhance socio-economic diversity, aiming for parity where socio-economic backgrounds at the top reflect the overall workforce. Being a commercially driven purpose led firm, we wanted to learn from their partners who focus on the financial services sector. We were delighted to have Vicki join us and to hear her perspectives. Below we share some key takeaways.

Performance: Performance levels are consistent across different backgrounds, but progression is slower for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Data shows that; Employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds take 15% longer to reach senior leadership roles. This characteristic has a much stronger effect compared with gender, as females experience a ‘double-disadvantage’: females from lower socio-economic backgrounds take 21% longer to progress to senior roles compared with females from higher socio-economic backgrounds.

Challenges and Initiatives around social mobility: Organisations are beginning to challenge shortlisting based on socio-economic backgrounds, similar to efforts made for gender and ethnicity. Socio-economic background can be a greater barrier to success than gender or ethnicity, often causing compounded disadvantages.

Senior Level Diversity: Socio-economic diversity is lacking, especially at senior levels; with data collected on 150,000 financial services employees, it showed disparities such as 20% of leaders attending independent schools – more than triple the national average of 6.4%.

Imposter Syndrome is more prevalent among individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds, impacting their confidence in seeking promotions and networking.

Data and Privacy: There is a need to reassure employees about the use of socio-economic data, as some may be reluctant to share their backgrounds. This is also the case with candidates who feel less inclined to share their background or history, especially in cases where they have journeyed to get where they currently are, and don’t wish to reflect on the past.

Support Measures – active steps we can take to ensure progression is not impeded:

  • The development of sponsorship programmes can ensure people are recognised and have access to opportunities. Sponsorship gets people talked about in the right places to the right people.
  • Changing competency-based interview questions to be more inclusive. Instead of asking questions such as “tell me about a time when..”, we can instead say “if you were faced with x situation, what would you do?”
  • Leadership development programmes are beneficial but need to be supplemented with sponsorship and coaching. This allows the conversation to be continued and flow even outside those initial development sessions.
  • Emphasise inclusivity in job postings to attract a wide range of candidates.


To find out more, visit


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