upReach Manchester Alumni Event – Social Mobility Q&A with David McIntosh
This week, Senior Consultant Rhiannon Griffiths hosted a Social Mobility Q&A with David McIntosh, Co-Chair and Founder of the KPMG Social Mobility Network, and Host of The Development by David podcast, at the upReach Alumni Manchester Meet Up. upReach work to create conditions for undergraduates from less-advantaged backgrounds to access and thrive in top graduate jobs. Rhiannon is actually one of the earliest alumni herself!
It was an extremely insightful event where we heard many success stories, discussed some very important topics, and took a good look to the future of social mobility in the workplace.
As an introduction, David spoke about realising the importance of financial security very young, after seeing his parents struggle, so had early dreams to become an Accountant. He was particularly inspired at a young age by a talk at his school given by Sir Tom Hunter, Scotland’s richest man and first millionaire, now global philanthropist. He was from a town nearby with humble beginnings so it was a real inspiration of what might be possible, with someone so relatable. So, the aim with David’s podcast is to share stories and use origin stories to show it is possible to do what you want to do, and to have that as an enabler for young people, to have the visibility and capability to achieve their dreams. In a lovely 360 moment, Sir Tom was then a guest on David’s podcast.
David also founded the KPMG Social Mobility Scotland Network, where he paired 75 disadvantaged young people with 75 professionals, which worked so well that in 2020 he was invited to speak with the Queen on a royal visit and shared his story with her. Lots of people really related to his story but said they weren’t brave enough to share theirs, so David went on a mission to try and change that, using these messages as a business case. He went back to KPMG with this, and after 2 years they have over 1000 members across the UK and they have been recognised in the British Diversity Awards. They put on events that the members might not have had access to previously, and have people volunteering in different roles such as events, partnerships, communications and strategy. KPMG have set long term commitments on social mobility stretching to 2030, they hope to have working class representation at senior level of 29% by 2030 – they are the first firm to do that, and to publish a socioeconomic pay gap report. Having the tone from the top and a diverse and inclusive culture from the Chair down made creating the network a lot easier.
In terms of advice for those starting out in their career, David said to say yes to everything, and to not be scared to ask for new opportunities – when you come from a lower socioeconomic background and are entering into work, you might not want to disrupt and ask those things, as disruption and risk have different connotations for you, you’re told to be careful. Share your story, the person you are speaking to will likely relate to something, and then you’re creating a core community of people like you. Opportunities are likely to lie outside of your current circle, so it’s important to make connections, making a network over time and then also be a role model for others like you. As a socioeconomic background is invisible, it can be hard to identify some role models, which is again why it’s so important to share your story and create that awareness. It’s also a super power – if no one has walked that walk before, you are paving the way so others won’t feel like an imposter. But don’t be hard on yourself, you have so much time to figure it all out. Don’t compare yourself to your more privileged peers, instead compare downwards in retrospective, compare to your own journey and the distance travelled.
So, what’s next for social mobility? LinkedIn did a study that showed those from a lower socioeconomic background have 11 times less of a social network, and we know that social networking and network in general is a gatekeeper to opportunities, so one important thing is creating a culture where everyone can get involved in the conversation. At KPMG they’ve created club hubs, Microsoft Teams pages designed around various hobbies, families, podcasts etc. where people can share what they are up to, and problems they are facing. More practically, they are also creating a toolset for soft skills that people might need, around things like how to dress, how to sign off an email. However, it’s important not to change how people are acting, it’s important not to disempower ways of thinking, to take people as they are, embrace that as that’s where innovation occurs, but just giving support where it’s needed.
Nick Bent, upReach CEO gave a closing comment that the social mobility agenda is moving in the right direction, rising up the political and corporate agenda – it’s a slow and painful process but senior leaders are seeing it’s the right thing to do, there are barriers to be addressed and having a diverse work force it’s also good for business. So, if you are able to talk to someone in leadership at your organisation about social mobility or even partnering with a charity like upReach, it could really go somewhere. You may just want to talk to your peers, either way it’s great to get conversations happening. At the very least, share your story!
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