How can tech firms use social mobility to enable opportunities for everyone?

Social Diversity series

Created on: April 19, 2017

Updated on: April 25, 2018

Written by Sehinde Raji

Did you know that those born in the 1980’s in the UK are the first to not start their careers with higher incomes than their parents?

The UK government last year published the fourth annual “State of the Nation” report from the Social Mobility Commission in November last year. And it concluded that the rungs on the social mobility ladder are growing further apart.

What is social mobility?

Social mobility is the glue that enables the movement of individuals, families and households between social strata within a society. Social mobility will typically be upward or downward in nature.

Have you ever asked yourself is it possible to move in to the tech world and become a key player to improve your own social mobility?

Well I have news for you it may be the case for a tiny minority and it is not for everyone.

Over the past 2 years I have worked extensively on a number of projects and this has culminated in my anointment as a Full Stack Developer who is well versed in Laravel, VueJS, Wordpress and more recently CraftCMS.

More recently I have developed a friendship with a fellow multi-faceted entrepreneur and developer Bybreen Samuels.

Please check out her latest posts on medium Bybreen's blog

Bybreen attended the Alter Conference a few weeks ago, where she was approached by a small SME based in north London. Bybreen recommended me for a freelance software developer position at the company.

What is Alter Conf?

Alter Conf is a travelling conference series that provides safe opportunities for marginalised people and those who support them within the tech and gaming industries.

Since, I am from a Black and minority ethnic community, I was exhilarated at the fact that I was recommended. I wrongly or rightly assumed that the organisation’s present, abided by the spirit and the aims of the conference.

I carefully scrutinised the job description and I happened to stumble on the following extract from the education section:

Education

Good degree – any numerate degree from Oxford or Cambridge (or roughly equivalent international university), or a first-class degree from any other top British university.

As part of my efforts to highlight social immobility I drafted a robust reply via email and here are some of the questions I asked: 

How does any numerate degree from Oxford or Cambridge or by implication a Russell Group University help to promote social cohesion?

What is your organisation doing to support marginalised people within the tech industry?

Why does your organisation place insurmountable barriers that act against marginalised communities backing them in to a corner so that they are prevented from applying to your organisation?

There was a dichotomy between the aims of the conference and the recruitment practices that were in operation at this small company.

This helped to reinforce barriers to employment and it prevents potential candidates from applying. Perhaps this was the intention of the person who devised it.

The company replied to my initial email and I followed this up with a subsequent reply and my questions were left unanswered.

The overall effects of social immobility reinforced by tech recruitment is summed up in the quote listed below:

The difference between rich and poor is becoming more extreme, and as income inequality widens the wealth gap in major nations, education, health and social mobility are all threatened. Helene D. Gayle

Social mobility isn’t a maybe.

If certain sections of society are prevented from participating there will be very dire consequences for the future.

For us to address these disparities we can redraw the recruitment practices by

Competence Interviews

Introduce competency focussed interviews.

Blind CV’s

The removal of educational backgrounds and the names of applicants will reduce unconscious bias.

Mentor relationships

Target candidates that are improving their skills through social enterprises such as CodeBar.io, Accessible Tech Network and Women who code.

Schools

Send a tech representative to comprehensive schools to talk about careers in technology to help those students who are making life changing decisions at 16.

Tech Education

Sponsoring tech education by providing bursaries and sponsored internships that provide a living wage to the internship participants. Aim to recruit as many as people as possible.

What I do?

As an experienced developer, I help disadvantaged people by attending hackathons. I coach at codementor.io and I lend a helping hand to others who are struggling with their code.

We need to have a mature dialogue in order for us to change these widening disparities in a mature and consensual way.

It’s important that we change our processes in tech, there is too much push back from organisations right now.

What are you doing to encourage those from different economic backgrounds to improve your brand equity?