Accountancy giant KPMG has become one of the first large UK businesses to have set a target for recruiting a number of employees from working class backgrounds. The company has defined ‘working class’ as people with parents with ‘routine and manual’ jobs, such as drivers, cleaners, and farmworkers.
The Independent reports that the Anglo-Dutch firm, and one of the Big Four accounting organisations, has stated that it wants 29 per cent of its partners and directors to come from working class backgrounds by 2030. That compares with 23 per cent of partners and 20 per cent of directors at the moment.
According to KPMG, these employees were paid 8.6 per cent less than workers from other socio-economic backgrounds.
The firm faced a backlash in February after its former chairman dismissed the notion of ‘unconscious bias’ training in the workplace.
Data from the Social Mobility Commission showed that 39 per cent of the UK workforce aged 16-years-old and above are from working class backgrounds. The Labour Force survey found that 24 per cent were from ‘intermediate’ backgrounds, which is defined as those with parents with jobs such as secretaries, call centre agents, and nursery nurses.
The remaining 37 per cent were from ‘professional backgrounds’, with their parents working as teachers, finance managers, software designers, and accountants.
KPMG said that while its senior and junior colleagues were its most socio-economically diverse employees, working class representation in middle management grades was comparatively lower and this was contributing to the pay gaps.
The firm gathered its diversity data from a non-mandatory survey, which had a 70 per cent response from employees. Of the 10,444 respondents, 1,289 selected ‘I don’t know’ or ‘prefer not to say’ when quizzed about their backgrounds.
The company will also train its 16,000 employees to understand the issue of socio-economic background and to recognise ‘invisible barriers’ to progression.
KPMG chair Bina Mehta said she was from a working-class background and was a ‘passionate believer that greater diversity improves business performance’.
“Diversity brings fresh thinking and different perspectives to decision-making, which in turn delivers better outcomes for our clients,” she added.
Ms Mehta was appointed to the chairman role earlier this year after the resignation of the former chairman, Bill Michael.
During a company-wide Zoom call, he said there was "no such thing as unconscious bias” and that staff should “stop moaning” about worries over cuts to their benefits during COVID-19
Workers complained in the anonymous comments section of the Zoom call, with one writing: “There's no such thing as unconscious bias?! Are you joking? Please do your research before just making such statements. Check your privilege.”
Along with the other Big Four accountancy firms PwC, Deloitte and EY, KPMG offers unconscious bias training for its staff.
The training is designed to increase awareness about race, sex, sexuality or disability prejudices and patterns of discrimination in the workplace.
Nick Miller, the chief executive of non-profit consultancy the Bridge Group, said: “In publishing pay gaps by socio-economic background for the first time, and using this to inform a strategy for change, KPMG is leading the way.”
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