Dowshan Humzah

Digital Strategy & Business Transformation Director, TWKS and Executive Ambassador, Board Apprentice Global
Supporting social mobility
We need to change mindsets throughout organisations to realise the benefits arising from all aspects of diversity and difference – both visible and not visible, including social background.
Dowshan Humzah

Bridging the gap between education and workplace skills, Dowshan has taken his extensive digital knowledge into schools and further education establishments, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, to help pupils from less-privileged backgrounds develop presentation and career skills.

The pupils he supports will usually not have access to opportunities or connections to help them secure work experience, and are not ready to enter the job market.

There are many underlying societal issues that need to be addressed in order to prepare young people for the world of work, such as: income inequalities; greater parental/family support; higher quality teaching from early years to university and wider exposure to a greater range of experiences, people and professions.

There is also a role for organisations to encourage social mobility and assess whether they are perpetuating the status quo.

Most of the senior roles in the largest UK organisations are held by individuals who have come from privileged family backgrounds and have attended private schools and/or have studied at Oxbridge, a Russell Group or an Ivy League University.

Many recruiters still favour those from elite schools, limiting opportunities for the majority of the population and the talent pool of organisations.

Measuring social mobility is complex and difficult to track as it is not self-identifying as other obvious forms of visible diversity but it is important that we do so. This will help businesses become more socially inclusive and attract a more diverse workforce.

There are many actions that can improve the balance:

  • Outreach programmes widen the future talent pool by linking businesses to schools in disadvantaged areas and improve awareness of wider opportunities
  • Consider the journey, challenges and experience - not just the end point - of each individual
  • As the business marketplace is changing, it is essential that a wider range of views is heard, representing all of society and the customer base, and providing vigorous challenge and debate at management meetings
  • Individuals themselves need resilience, self-belief and tenacity and this comes back to policy. For example, in the US, infant school children are encouraged to present to their peers. Soft skills are critical and early lessons encourage and provide confidence for less privileged pupils to succeed

It is difficult to drive social mobility through legislation. There needs to be a significant mindset shift and business-led approach, similar to the success achieved through the gender equality campaign, in order to widen the talent pool and create a more inclusive society and working environment.

Dowshan's advice

  • Know your customers, anticipate their future needs and requirements and from that build a wide talent pool – go for the wild-card talent sometimes
  • Change is the only constant – don't be bland or vanilla and don’t always recruit in the same likeness. At least offset your vanilla with individuals who will challenge the norm and bring in a different perspective given their diverse background and journey
  • Rather than recruit for one role with a specific person in mind, assess the 'skills-set' and the potential a range of individuals could bring to the team, widening the viewpoints and skills available

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