Newcastle University Business School

Event Item

The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged

Part of the Human Resource Management, Work and Employment, and Professions, Work and Organisation Research Groups' seminar series

Date/Time: Wednesday 6 December, 16:00 - 18:00

Venue: Room 4.23, Newcastle University Business School

Speaker: Sam Friedman, London School of Economics

The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceilings’, preventing women and minority ethnic groups from getting to the top are well documented. Yet questions of social class - and specifically class origin – have been curiously absent from these debates. In this talk I begin by drawing on new data from Britain’s largest employment survey, The Labour Force Survey, to demonstrate that a powerful and previously unrecognised “class pay gap” exists in Britain’s higher professional and managerial occupations. I then switch focus to ask why this pay gap exists. Specifically, I draw on four occupational case studies – television, accountancy, architecture, and acting. In each case I reflect on fieldwork that goes beyond the closed doors of an elite firm to probe how class background affects career progression.  Do the socially mobile tend to enter less lucrative specialisms, are they less likely to benefit from the help of mentors or sponsors, are they more reluctant to ask for pay rises, and are embodied markers of class background – like accent, pronunciation and self-presentation – unfairly misrecognised as markers of talent or ability? I combine analysis of staff data with an extensive programme of 180 in-depth interviews to answer these questions.