KPMG Study Reveals Biggest Barrier to Career Progression 

KPMG Study Reveals Biggest Barrier to Career Progression 

What characteristic do you think represents the biggest potential impingement on a person’s career progression? The colour of one’s skin? One’s sex? One’s disability? One’s sexual orientation? No, no, no and… no. A recent study has revealed that the biggest disadvantage you can possess in terms of advancing in your career has nothing to do with any of these protected characteristics. 

The study, commissioned by KPMG, analysed the career paths of over 16,500 partners and employees at the company over a five-year period and looked at the average time it took these individuals to be promoted and compared this against their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background. 

It was revealed that one’s socio-economic background has the biggest impact on career progression at KPMG, with people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds taking on average 19% longer to progress to a more senior role, as compared to those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. This discrepancy was greater than that between white and non-white staff, straight and gay staff, male and female staff and disabled and non-disabled staff. 

This study is not unique. A 2018 study commissioned by the BBC revealed a near identical pattern within their organisation, with the career progression gap between staff from working class and professional backgrounds standing at 20%. 

The numbers are clear: being working class puts you further away from the starting line in the race of life than anything else. So, what can working class people do about it? Well, not much. We have laws in place to protect people being unfairly disadvantaged as a result of their race, disability, sex and sexual orientation (and more) but the most impactful disadvantage one can have, that of a low class, is not covered by any legislation. 

The lack of legal protection afforded to working class people in the workplace and wider society sends a clear message: working class people must accept that they will be disadvantaged, to a greater extent than any other group, and accept that they will have no legal recourse to address the issue when it happens. 

As a working class person, this makes me angry. Not only are working class people not protected in law against discrimination, there is very little public discourse around the disproportionate disadvantages they face in the workplace. Much of the focus in terms of inequality in the workplace focuses on race, disability and sex which are all legitimate and important issues to tackle. However, the lack of interest, both legally and socially, in class inequality and discrimination means it will continue to grow, despite very much being in the shade. 

This blog was written by Jack Dooley, Trainee Solicitor at didlaw.