The Social Mobility Employer Index 2021

The Social Mobility Employer Index 2021

The social mobility employer index 2021 has recently been published by the Social Mobility Foundation. The report highlights:  

  • The Top 75 Employers for social mobility
  • Data and recommendations from our biggest-ever Employer Index with 203 employers represented
  • Insights from five years of analysing best practice

We know that fairness and EDI in assessment is vital, and we are thrilled to see many of Sova's clients listed here. 

However, the report found there are are still barriers to employment in the recruitment process for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds:

"The typical recruitment and selection process is at risk from elements of class bias, which puts young people from lower- socioeconomic backgrounds at a disadvantage in comparison to their more privileged peers. For example, research carried out last year by Accent Britain showed that job candidates with a Received Pronunciation (RP) accent were seen as more informed and more suitable for professional employment, even when speakers of other accents gave identical answers1.

Recruitment models still place too much emphasis on academic performance and university attended, again strongly associated with higher socioeconomic background, rather than potential to excel in the role being recruited for; in 2021, 78% of Index employers still had minimum grade requirements. This figure has remained consistent across several years, although most employers do now offer a rationale to explain why they have chosen those particular grades.

When scoring applications, it is positive to see more employers positively scoring being from an under-represented group within the organisation's workforce (17%, up 10 percentage points) this year. Yet we also saw more employers scoring degree subject (19%, up 7 percentage points) and amount of work experience (35%, up 8 percentage points) which could put lower socioeconomic background young people at a disadvantage.

Employers should consider a targeted process to remove these barriers, and some employers are starting to do so; 25% of employers flagged students with certain socioeconomic backgrounds characteristics in the recruitment process, 42% analysed their recruitment processes to see where applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds fell down, and 32% take a second look at candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to check there was no context missed.

Blind recruitment, which involves the removal of personal indicators, is an opportunity to protect against bias. A growing number of employers are removing applicant names from an application, with 48% doing so this year, compared to 46% last year and 35% in 2019. Similarly, 38% are removing grades, up 37% from last year.

However, the number of employers removing candidates’ universities fell to 40% from 46%. This is bad news, because where universities are visible recruiters tend to favour Russell Group universities, which tend to have less diverse student bodies."

1 Accent Bias in Britain – Attitudes to Accents in Britain and Implications for Fair Access (2020): uploads/2020/03/Accent-Bias-Britain-Report-2020.pdf

Read the full report here

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