Over the past few years, organisations in all sectors have come under pressure to improve their diversity. Most companies now recognise the importance of finding employees from a range of backgrounds, and it’s common for businesses to have diversity and equality policies.
This is to be applauded – the more diverse your workforce is the better. Diversity is essential for research agencies, whose job it is to get the best possible understanding of the behaviour, opinions and attitudes of the public on behalf of multiple clients.
Despite this, there are plenty of companies that are potentially shooting themselves in the foot by deliberately seeking out candidates from Oxbridge and Russell Group universities.
It’s understandable that companies want the best people to join their businesses, and candidates who went to a top university are usually high-calibre, motivated individuals. However, when it comes to being accepted to a top institution, the odds are stacked in favour of white people from the middle and upper classes. By focusing on what university someone went to, hiring managers are needlessly ruling out some of the best candidates.
Seeking out and favouring Oxbridge grads impacts diversity in a couple of ways – social class and race.
A quick glance at this graphic showing the whereabout of successful applicants to Oxford and Cambridge tells us that most students come from the most affluent areas of the country – with a large portion coming from the home counties, or the richest boroughs in London.
Additionally, earlier this year MP David Lammy assembles figures showing that between 2010 – 2015 only 1.5% of the offers made by Oxbridge were to black British students, despite the fact that about 3% of the population identified as black in the last census. And 80% and 79% respectively of the students Oxford and Cambridge admitted between 2010 and 2015 were from the top two social classes, while only 6% were from social classes six and seven (with parents in routine or semi-routine work). More offers were made to Eton pupils than young people eligible for free school meals.
Of course, it is not the responsibility of hiring managers to solve the diversity problem in our higher education system, but deliberately favouring candidates from the top universities significantly reduces your candidate pool, leaving you with a selection of mostly white, mostly upper or middle class, candidates. It’s worth bearing in mind for your next round of recruitment.
Companies in the market research industry are becoming more mindful of inclusion and diversity, and we at Hasson Associates have taken this on board. 2018 is our Year of Diversity, and we are taking steps to ensure the shortlists we provide to our clients represent as many groups of people as possible. You can find more information on diversity and inclusion in the MR industry here: https://www.mrs.org.uk/article/mrs/inclusion