White men ’30 times likelier to succeed in finance’

White men '30 times likelier to succeed in finance'

Study reveals significant disparities in career progression in the financial sector based on gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background

A recent study conducted by the Bridge Group for Progress Together has shed light on the stark disparities in career progression within the financial services industry. The research, which examined the career trajectories of nearly 150,000 individuals, revealed that white men from higher socio-economic backgrounds are 30 times more likely to succeed in finance compared to working-class ethnic minority women. These findings highlight the profound impact of socio-economic background on career advancement and raise important questions about diversity and inclusion in the sector.

Addressing the Barriers to Progression

At grassroots level, efforts are being made to tackle the barriers that hinder diversity and inclusion in the financial sector. Andrien Meyers, an Anglo-Indian, and Gavin Lewis, who is black, noticed the lack of diversity at a conference in 2010 and began discussing ways to effect change. A decade later, their brainchild, the Catalyst Education Programme, was born. The program aims to bring in individuals from different backgrounds to improve decision-making and foster a more inclusive and diverse industry. By providing opportunities for young people from non-traditional backgrounds, the program aspires to create a pipeline of talent that extends all the way to the executive level.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Anoushka, a 17-year-old participant in the Catalyst Education Programme, emphasizes the importance of seeing people who look like her in the industry. While some firms mention diversity and inclusion as important factors, Anoushka feels that these claims are not always reflected in reality. She hopes that in a few years’ time, the finance industry will truly embrace diversity and be more representative of society.

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Maria, another student on the program, highlights the prevalent perception of finance as an industry dominated by white men. Working with other young people from similar backgrounds has given her the confidence to pursue a career in finance without feeling deterred by stereotypes.

Breaking Barriers and Leveling the Playing Field

Aahil, a student on the Catalyst Education Programme, describes the financial industry as having an “iron wall” for individuals from backgrounds like his. He points to the abundance of jargon and the prevalence of nepotism as major hurdles to entry. However, the after-school sessions offered by the program, which delve into topics such as bonds and other financial concepts, have helped level the playing field, providing individuals like Aahil with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.

The Challenge of Progression

While progress is being made to open up the financial sector, the study by Progress Together also revealed that women from working-class backgrounds face a significant “double disadvantage,” progressing 21% more slowly than their peers from more advantaged families. Dr. Louise Ashley, author of “Highly Discriminating: Why the City Isn’t Fair and Diversity Doesn’t Work,” believes that businesses are making efforts to attract diverse talent at the entry level but acknowledges the pressure for individuals to conform to a certain environment, which can hinder their progression.


The study’s findings underscore the urgent need for greater diversity and inclusion in the financial services industry. While efforts are being made to address the barriers to progression, such as the Catalyst Education Programme, there is still a long way to go. The industry must recognize and embrace the value that individuals from non-traditional backgrounds bring, including their unique perspectives and outlooks. By creating an environment that fosters inclusivity and supports the aspirations of young people, the finance industry can thrive and better serve the needs of a diverse society.

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