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UK Top-level Positions Suffer from Lack of Diversity Claim SMCP

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCP) have concluded in their latest report that there is a stark lack of diversity among UK’s top-level positions with people coming from restricted backgrounds holding reigns over majority of the highest posts.

The study found out that an elite group of persons that graduated out of Oxford, Cambridge and independent schools occupy most of the top positions in the country, whether in the public or private sector.

Alan Milburn, chairman of SMCP, expressed dismay over the findings. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s morning programme Today, he said that, “"Locking out a diversity of talents and experiences makes Britain's leading institutions less informed, less representative and ultimately less credible than they should be."

SMCP’s researchers went over the backgrounds of about four thousand public and private sector leaders, including businessmen, politicians, media men, and civil servants.

The commission’s report indicates that 71% of senior judges, 53% of diplomats, 62% of high-ranking armed forces officers, 50% of the House of Lords members, 36% of cabinet members, 33% of MPs, and 45% of the chairs of public bodies all come from independent schools. SMCP’s report also revealed that elitism is not only prevalent in the government but also in the private sector as well. The commission particularly noted that 43% of columnists of UK newspapers and 44% of UK’s most affluent persons listed in Sunday Times Rich List are privately educated. 

In contrast, only 7% of UK’s population attended private institutions.

The report also revealed that many high posts are still being occupied by Oxford and Cambridge graduates. Oxbridge graduates in high positions include 75% of senior judges, 57% of permanent secretaries, 59% of cabinet members, 37% of the House of Lords, 50% of diplomats, as well as 47% of columnists of UK newspapers.

The SMCP went on to say that only 1% of the total population of UK went to either Oxford or Cambridge and even 62% were not able to attain university-level education.

Lack of diversity in an organisation has long been criticised by experts as it leads to group-think and fosters narrow-minded decisions. Organisations lead by persons having similar backgrounds may also have difficulties in anticipating and dealing with strategic changes.

Mr. Milburn said that lack of diversity is “not a recipe for a healthy democratic society” and the findings of the commission should awaken educational institutions and the government.

SMCP advanced several recommendations in its. The commission, for instance, recommends that employers observe university-blind applications during recruitment and publish data regarding its employees’ socio-cultural background.

There are some private sectors, however, that do not share SMCP’s views. Arbuthnot Banking Group economic adviser, Ruth Lea, said in an interview with the Daily Mail last August 27 that the university-blind applications SMCP wants is impractical as there are some universities that specialise in certain fields.

Some group of employers, on the other hand, favour SMCP’s findings and expressed concern on the apparent elitism prevailing over top UK jobs.

Denise Keating, Chief Executive Officer of enei (Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion), said: “Considering that only 7% of the UK population meets the ‘elite’ definition given for the study, the percentage of top jobs held by these elite is staggering. Social mobility seems to represent a real glass ceiling for employees trying to enter into and progress in certain professions. Even more worrying is that this seems to be a bigger problem in the public sector, with the majority of top judges, senior armed forces officers, permanent secretaries and senior diplomats all being from fee  paying schools. If the Government, who are responsible for these appointments and posts, struggle to appoint a more diverse range of candidates we are and will continue to suffer a disconnect between the needs of the majority against the views of the minority.”


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