For years, the investment banking sector has prided itself on the idea that it is fiercely meritocratic. Those who work hard succeed, and those who don't get chucked out fast if they don't make the grade. Recent research, however, has shown that the industry is dominated by people educated at private schools and Ivy League/Oxbridge universities, as well as those from upper middle class backgrounds.
Though banks have been encouraging students from poorer backgrounds to apply for jobs, a report by the government-backed Social Mobility Commission last year found "little evidence that investment banks have made meaningful alterations to mainstream recruitment and selection practices".
Some bankers claim that although things have gotten a lot better since the introduction of diversity and inclusion based programs at investment banks, the industry as a whole is still completely unrepresentative of the wider population. This could be for a lot of reasons, but some have gone as far as to suggest discrimination.
Dubbed the "brown shoes" effect by a report by the Social Mobility Commission last year, candidates from poorer backgrounds lack the social graces that kids with wealthy parents often learn intuitively, like knowing what to wear for an interview, or making small talk about skiing or their latest holiday.
For many years, investment banks have been offering work experiences and visiting schools to encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply for jobs at their firms. Beyond that, some bankers believe that the burden lies on schools and colleges to do a better job of preparing disadvantaged students for the rigorous investment banking application process. After all, there remains a widespread agreement that banks should not lower their standards just to recruit candidates from poorer backgrounds.
What do you guys think? Is there an element of unconscious bias- around speech, around shoes, around dress codes- at investment banks that prevents students from poorer backgrounds from succeeding? Or have banks just become the latest target of activists who want to find bias everywhere?
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