Breaking the socio-economic glass ceiling

Thursday 6 February 2020

CFA UK socio-economic background event From left:  Andrew Fairbairn, CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunities London, Bruno Paulson, Portfolio Manager at Morgan Stanley, Joy Yang, Product Specialist at MarketBeta  

Author: Joanne Frearson

When it comes to working in the finance sector many still think it is for people who have the right network and do the right kind of degrees.  Although companies have launched programmes to be more diverse, advancement in socio-economic inclusion is still lagging.

Statistics have found that there has been little progress to improve social-inclusion in the UK. Speaking at the ‘Breaking the glass ceiling’ breakfast event* organised by CFA UK’s Socio-Economic Inclusion Working Group in London, Bruno Paulson, Portfolio Manager at Morgan Stanley, said some projects showed no advancement for 50 years.
A study by the Centre for Social Investigation, which he was involved in sent blind CVs to companies, which were identical except for ethnicity. In the late 60s, early 70s a person from a black or Muslim background had to send 1.8 times more CVs to get an interview. Today this is figure is still the same.

According to Bruno who has an Eton and Oxford upbringing, the results was a critical turning point for him to get more involved in social inclusion in the industry. 

Other surveys have found people felt disillusioned about entering the financial profession. A KPMG study found that 16% of the UK population don’t think they can pursue a job in the financial sector because they have no contacts in the sector, while 65% said they would not even consider it at all.  

Building a more inclusive industry

However, Andrew Fairbairn, CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunities London, said he is in the ‘hope business.’ He believes socio-economic inclusion can improve in the industry if companies embrace differences. 

“If you can tweak your policies your procedures and teams to think differently about running towards difference as opposed to sticking with the tried and true, that is really the core of most of this,” he said.

“You can quite quickly fall into a very warm and pleasant trap of good enough hiring, it satisfies us, so we do it. But there are so many situations where we see that is just going to fail, so much talent is left to the side.”

One way, Bruno and Andrew thought the industry could become more socio-economically inclusive is to install in young people from an early age that it is possible to pursue these sorts of careers. 
Bruno said: “The key thing the whole ethos in school is about making people believe stuff is possible, getting that sense of belief that stuff is possible and you can do stuff.

“At Eton the biggest single benefit is I believed I could do stuff, I believed I had to work for it, but stuff is possible. That whole mix of ambition, going to University. You can. Getting the jobs. You can and getting that driven into them.”

Bruno who is also a Governor at Kensington Aldridge Academy has found if a child’s parents don’t think education is worthwhile then that child is more likely to end up in the bottom 30 GCSEs results. 

According to Bruno and Andrew the best way to help young people from less privileged backgrounds is through direct contact with the industry. This includes work experience programmes and companies visiting schools to show them a career is possible. 

The pair would like to see initiatives which involve face-to-face meetings rather than trying to teach skills through software. 

Andrew said: “People are going to rise and fall, based on their personal interactions they have, the support they have, and the people they are.”  

Getting young people from lower socio-economic into the finance industry has been difficult. But through training and programmes which empowers young people to believe they can make it, that glass ceiling is slowly being broken.
* The event was held by the Socio-Economic Inclusion Working Group, the first working group formed by the CFA UK’s Inclusion and Diversity committee. Speakers included Andrew Fairbairn, CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunities London and Bruno Paulson, Portfolio Manager at Morgan Stanley. 



Related Articles

Aug 2023 » Inclusion and Diversity

DEI in real estate: a personal experience

Oct 2022 » Wellbeing

Mental Health and the City

Sep 2022 » Gender Diversity

Now is the time for male allies to step up

Jul 2022 » ESG

Tackling the diversity greenwash