Is your social class holding you back in your career?

It can do but it is not destiny.  Let me give an example and then explain it:

Britain is probably the most class-ridden society in the Western world.  Yet when I spent a year there in 1977 as a mere Australian of humble background, I had great social entree. For instance:

* I acquired a girlfiend of aristocratic lineage.  She traced her ancestry back a thousand years. 

* And I was told I could be nominated to one of London's prestigious gentleman's clubs.  

* I got to have a chat to Margaret Thatcher at a small private garden party in Kent

So how did I do it?  How did a mere Australian have the social acceptance that many an Englishman would have given his right arm for?

The first part to note is that I did not seek such acceptance. That would have been self-defeating.  I just acted as myself.  So what is there in me that opened so many doors in the "best" circles of England?

Charles Murray answered that a couple of decades ago in his notorious book and Toby Young has expanded it.  Obnoxious though it may sound, there is a strong correlation in most societies between social status and IQ.  The habits, attitudes and practices that  characterize high status people are the habits, attitudes and practices of high IQ people.  High IQ people set upper class standards.  And they are often rather subtle and very hard to fake.  You have got it or you do not.  I did.

So, No.  Your social status will not hold you back.  But your IQ might.  As long as you are reasonably socially competent. most doors will open to very bright people

The importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace has been well established. But one factor of identity has largely been left out: socio-economic class.

Research has shown that moving up the socio-economic ladder is becoming more difficult, and class bias has been known to affect lifetime earnings. Studies on first-generation college students also suggest disparities may follow them into their post-college careers.

Few studies have investigated the workplace experience of those from different socio-economic backgrounds. To fill this knowledge gap, we conducted a study of first-generation professionals, or FGPs. Also known as class migrants, FGPs are those who move from working-class roots to white-collar careers. We included FGPs and non-FGPs in the study to produce comparative data. Here’s what we learned about FGPs and what company leaders can do to support them.

FGPs were likelier than others to report that structured programs were helpful to their careers. For example, we asked each survey respondent how they obtained their first professional job and found 23.7 per cent of FGPs acquired their jobs through a work-study program at college, compared with just 7.6 per cent of non-FGPs.

Likewise, FGPs were almost twice as likely as non-FGPs to report they found employee resource groups helpful during their first job (23 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively). In contrast, non-FGPs indicated they were likelier to lean on family and friends for support and advice.

FGPs were also significantly likelier to report that professional development and leadership training was useful for their careers, contributed to promotions and improved their skills. “Code switching” means adapting one’s communication, appearance and mannerisms to fit in. It’s widely documented that people of colour feel pressured to act differently at work to be accepted. We found people from working-class backgrounds often feel similarly. Many FGPs also reported being shocked and disappointed that their hard work and results were notably less important to their careers than knowing how to communicate in a certain way and build networks. As one respondent explained: “At first I thought, oh … just as long as I’m a great worker, right? You know, I do what I need to do, I’ll get promoted fast. That’s not the case. What it really is, is your contacts. Building that network.”

In our survey, considerable differences arose between FGPs and non-FGPs when participants were asked directly about how they felt in the workplace. They were asked to rank several statements on a five-point scale. FGPs rated almost every statement lower than non-FGPs, including: “My personality type is valued,” “I have access to decision-makers,” “I feel comfortable talking about my family and personal life”. This tells us overall feelings of inclusion and belonging are likely lower for FGPs.

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