Big four consulting firm KPMG has become the first big business in Britain to publicly set a target for the number of working-class staff.
It said it was aiming for nearly a third (29%) of its partners and directors to come from the socioeconomic classification by 2030.
KPMG defined working class people as those who had parents with “routine and manual” jobs, such as plumbers, electricians, butchers and van drivers.
Currently, 23% of KPMG’s 582 partners and 20% of its 1,297 directors meet the working class criteria. The firm said that those from what were considered to be lower socioeconomic backgrounds were typically paid 8.6% less than those whose parents worked in “higher managerial, administrative and professional” jobs.
KPMG is planning for all its 16,000 employees to receive training on “invisible barriers” that exist for people from less affluent backgrounds.
Diversity and inclusion
Bina Mehta, chair of KPMG, who describes herself as coming from a working-class background, said: “I’m a passionate believer that greater diversity improves business performance. Diversity brings fresh thinking and different perspectives to decision-making, which in turn delivers better outcomes for our clients.”
Mehta was appointed chair this year after her predecessor, Bill Michael, resigned following a backlash over comments he made to staff during a Zoom call.
He dismissed unconscious bias as “complete and utter crap” and told staff to “stop moaning and playing the victim card” about working conditions during the pandemic.
He said: “There is no such thing as unconscious bias, I don’t buy it. Because after every single unconscious bias training that has ever been done, nothing’s ever improved.”
According to the Social Mobility Commission people in the UK who came from a privileged rather than a working-class background were 60% more likely to be in a professional job.
However, people from working-class backgrounds were becoming more upwardly mobile, the commission said. Last year 39% of people from working-class families were in professional jobs, up from 33% in 2014.
In May the Commission published a report to help employers analyse the socioeconomic composition of their workforces and increase diversity. It revealed that employers were having difficulty collecting information about class and improved its own guidance regarding questions around parental occupation, type of school attended and free school meal eligibility.
KPMG’s move to increase diversity mirrors the efforts of some legal firms, recruitment services and other professional services firms that have understood the benefits of using analytics and AI to pinpoint talented recruits from state schools and more disadvantaged areas of the country.