Social Mobility Isn’t A Nice To Have: It’s Vital To The Progression Of Society
Social mobility affects us all. It covers all strata in society and does not just affect those typically seen as underprivileged. The family you were born into, where you come from, or the people you know shouldn’t be what shapes your life and prospects – but the reality is these things can still impact an individual’s progression in life and in the workplace as much as talent and skill.
More needs to be done by all industries and sectors to make sure they are actively engaging people from all backgrounds and aren’t unintentionally excluding an important demographic. But we must first look to ourselves to determine the impact we are having on driving social mobility and making sure everyone is afforded the same opportunities.
I strongly believe we have an obligation to do this. This is not something we should just opt into – if we are denying those from underprivileged backgrounds the opportunity to develop the skills and qualities they need to succeed in the workplace, then we’re stunting the growth and success that the right people and the right businesses combined can achieve.
In the technology sector we should be most aware of the role that diversity of thought plays in advancing a business. We are constantly on the lookout for new ideas that will help solve the problems that people face every day – but if we are excluding a major demographic, then we’re not truly catering for the needs of all.
This is why Callsign is working in partnership with the UK Social Mobility Awards (SOMOs) to launch the inaugural ‘Social Mobility Start-up of the Year’ award. For Callsign, taking continued action in the social mobility space has been central to our values as we went from a start-up to scale-up.
We support initiatives like Magic Breakfast, a charity that works with over 1,000 schools in the UK to offer breakfasts to over 2000 children every day. In addition, through our partnership with the Aldridge Foundation, we sponsor the annual Junior Art Prize, and employees volunteer time for CV workshops. We also have an apprenticeship programme here at Callsign. The next step with this SOMOs award is to get start-ups thinking about the need for social mobility as they build their business.
Social mobility has always been important for us as a company, and we are determined to engage a wider audience to support us in our mission to make sure every citizen is receiving the same opportunities.
SOCIAL MOBILITY IS A KEY TOPIC IN THE ‘TECH TALENT’ CONVERSATION
A recent study from Tech Nation revealed that employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds only account for 19% of the UK tech sector workforce, compared to 33.3% of the nationwide population. The study also found that across the UK, opportunities in the tech sector increased by 150% from 2015-2018. The tech sector needs to do more to attract talent, and we can expect to see start-ups play a core role in achieving more equal opportunities for all.
A major problem is that minimal representation of employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds in the tech sector also leads to lack of inclusivity when designing for segments of the population who would be using those tech products or services – and whose social mobility journey might benefit from it most.
The wider impact on society is that people and organisations are also being denied the progress and creativity that comes from diversity of thought. There are many efforts aimed at supporting and championing social mobility but factors like education and low socio-economic status still hinder progress.
SOCIAL MOBILITY AND DIGITAL SKILLS
In the tech sector we can see how many socio-economically disadvantaged young adults lack the crucial digital skills needed to excel in society and the workplace – and this could be a result of a “digital hardware” gap.
For example, if they don’t have access to the latest technology – such as smartphones and the newest laptop – they are forced to rely on low-end handsets and devices that don’t offer the same applications and services that others have access to.
This can impact the skills they develop, from basic online searching to programming, handling information and being safe online – all of which have a huge role to play in closing the gap between those from well-off backgrounds and the most deprived.
They need mentors in the community who can show them the extent of the digital world available to them. Through our work with the Aldridge Foundation, we make sure young people have established professionals they can turn to for the career advice they need to progress in the workplace. These individuals need someone to show them what to do next when they don’t have the tools to find the answer themselves, and to give them opportunities – or we risk wasting great talent.
WHY TECHNOLOGY NEEDS TO BE INCLUSIVE FOR ALL
Tech solutions should be built for every device and every user – and this is especially important when it comes to factors such as our digital identity.
No matter our background, we all have a digital identity. Organisations need to recognise how and why making this simple and secure is vital to individuals being able to protect it effectively. Those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are often left out of the digital identity conversation, perhaps due to a lack of access to technology or online services.
Working to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds is core to our culture and our values at Callsign. With the ever-increasing importance of tech in our lives, it is more important than ever that the UK startup scene takes the lead in embedding social mobility into its DNA from the start.
We’ve already seen good progress in terms of the levelling up agenda, with the UK Government announcing three new Innovation Accelerators in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and Glasgow City Region to create more opportunities for the tech sector to support it. Startups should now act as industry rocket fuel to help champion inclusive solutions and working practices to help us get there.
THE KEY ROLE STARTUPS PLAY IN SUPPORTING SOCIAL MOBILITY
Our jobs market has an ever-growing number of tech vacancies, and everyone needs digital skills to be qualified and considered for the best opportunities. Startups can help with this because they can build companies with a challenge for the status quo in mind and establish opportunities for good social mobility at the very start of their business journey by providing accessible opportunities for all.
However, startups themselves are often underfunded and under-resourced, along with understandably focusing their efforts on making money through innovative solutions – building the “next big app” before anyone else does. This leads to the automatic exclusion of anyone without the latest smartphone, laptop, or other device from being able to enter this type of workplace and help build these innovative solutions.
To combat this, startups must adapt their business processes to support everyone across all backgrounds to ensure all needs and abilities are being catered for. They need to be aware of the benefits of getting involved in the social mobility conversation and the impact this has on their culture and values as an organisation.
This is why we are partnering with SOMOS and launching the ‘Social Mobility Startup of the Year’ award, aimed at solving issues of social mobility in two ways; their inclusivity of those from disadvantaged social economic backgrounds in product or services development; and through their employment including apprenticeships, paid internships or helping to upskill through community outreach programmes.
Social mobility won’t be solved if we remain complacent. It also won’t be solved if technology continues to be exclusive. Something needs to change – from startups to governments alike – to ensure tech is created in a way that serves all demographics. That change starts here.
Source: Startups Magazine