DiversityMar 21 2023

Former BoE governor calls out lack of social mobility

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Former BoE governor calls out lack of social mobility
Andy Haldane, chief executive of the RSA, says Britain needs to address the lack of social mobility. (Irstone/Dreamstime.com)

Social mobility is one of the most difficult aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion but Britain needs to address it, the former chief economist at the Bank of England has claimed. 

Speaking in conversation with David Aujla, co-lead of the Diversity Project's workstreams, Andy Haldane, who is now chief executive of the The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, warned that Britain might be standing still or even going backwards in terms of social mobility.

He said: "Social mobility has perhaps until lately been one of the least focused on aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion.

"We know at a national level, based on any of the metrics on social mobility, we are at best as a country been standing still and might even have been going backwards.

"In fact, we may not have moved forward much for centuries, let alone decades."

You can't just shift the playing field - you have to tilt people's perceptions of the playing field.Andy Haldane, RSA

But he said certain sectors are worse when it comes to improving social mobility, and financial services is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to progress on this front.

He said: "What is true of the country as a whole is particularly true of sectors and professions such as financial services. 

"These professions often stand out for the wrong reasons on this front. I've worked in financial services most of my life and it really does stand out."

He said this was why, when he was asked to do something more "purposeful" in the social mobility space, with a focus on the financial services sector, it was "an opportunity I could not pass up".

Haldane commented: "We need to shine a light on what is self-evident and a longstanding problem that was not solving itself. It needed a nudge or even a shove to get this started."

He provided some tips for companies looking to improve social mobility among their workforce and communities. 

Focus on recruitment - not just replacing a person but considering the fitness for the team

Mapping your organisation better - Once you have gotten people in the door "which is the less difficult part", you need to make them feel at home and genuinely part of the team.

You have to focus therefore on recruitment and retention to "really turn the dial" on social mobility.

BoE - then and now

Haldane reminisced on his work at the Bank of England.

He said: "The Bank is unrecognisable now compared with how it was then when I started in the 1980s for its diversity and inclusion."