Recruiting from a broader range of social backgrounds is good for business as well as societyby Hashi Mohamed / April 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
In the summer of 2007, I had an idea that changed my life. I had just left university and was unsure what my future would look like—but I had an inkling. It could either be a safe job in the civil service, legal profession or even journalism.
Whatever it was, it was going to be very different to my past. I came to this country as a nine-year-old child refugee originally from Somalia and grew up in a disadvantaged area of north west London. My academic marks were not the greatest. I had no connection whatsoever to any of the professions I aspired to join. The odds were against me and I knew I had to be creative. I had little to lose and much to gain.
So I wrote a speculative letter to Peter Barron, then editor of Newsnight, asking to learn more about the inner workings of the programme. I told him a little about my background and cheekily added that two years earlier I had swapped watching MTV for Newsnight and had never looked back. Amazingly, Peter invited me in to spend some time with the programme. Though I didn’t end up going into full-time journalism (I am currently a barrister), the chance that Peter took on me was the moment my horizons were opened to a professional world I had known little about.
As I argue in a Radio 4 documentary to be broadcast this Tuesday evening, the kind of social mobility that got me where I am today is sadly atypical. For me luck mattered as much as talent. Peter decided to take a chance on me. Yet still there is a pervasive narrative in Britain that “if you work hard and do the right thing, you will get on.” This simply isn’t true. When it comes to the economically disadvantaged, working hard barely gets you to the starting line.
The challenge we face is immense. According to the Social Mobility Foundation, just 11 per cent of journalists and 4 per cent of doctors come from working-class backgrounds. The figure for barristers is 6 per cent. We should all be concerned with this—not only for the sake of fairness, but also because the brightest and the…