Diversity in Technology and IT

How the technology industry can increase social mobility

What is social mobility?

social mobilitySocial mobility is a shift from one social status to another, usually to a status that is either higher or lower. To achieve high social status, it can depend on certain factors such as wealth, connections, effort and education. It can also depend on social structures such as opportunities offered to different groups of people rather than individual talent or effort. Unfortunately, there are factors that can hinder upward social mobility such as gender and race.

Although some believe that social mobility is falling for young adults in today’s generation, it has actually improved since the 19th century. Back then, if people who didn’t have much money and were to have children, their children would be less likely to become rich and if anything, earn the same amount as their parents. However, if people who were rich were to become parents and have children, then those children are more likely to become rich and earn the same if not more money than their parents.

Over time, social mobility has increased, as those who aren’t fortunate enough to be born into a family with money are being given opportunities to go to university to help increase their social status.

There are different types of mobility, for example, if mobility involves change in positions, especially in occupation but no change in social class, then it is called ‘horizontal mobility’. An example of this would be, if a person from a managerial position in one company moves to a similar position in another company. However, if the move involves change in social class, then it is called ‘vertical mobility’ and either involves ‘upward mobility’ or ‘downward mobility’. For example, if an industrial worker became a wealthy business man, he would move upwards in class system.

Social mobility in tech

How tech can help?

It has been highlighted that many young adults are expected to be worse off than previous generations and it is believed that opportunities are depended on their social backgrounds instead of their talent. However, a study by BCS on social mobility has concluded that having a technology profession can open more career opportunities for everyone, whatever their social class.

Technology offers more social mobility than other industries like medicine and law with more routes to enter the industry and lower costs for qualifications and skills. Three quarters of those who are in a tech profession in the UK are better off than their parents were at that age. A young individual from a less advantaged background can find a career path that will enable an upward move in social mobility in the tech industry.

With the diversity issue being so big in the technology sector, it would be beneficial for tech companies to look for individuals from socio-economic backgrounds to increase social mobility as well as diversity in the workplace. Reflecting a wider society in technology is vital for its growth and the impact it has.

Recommendations

To help increase social mobility, there are several recommendations that can help young individuals across different socio-economic backgrounds understand how IT can aid their professional development.

  • Provide teachers, career advisors and parents with better information and knowledge about careers in the technology sector. Along with an understanding on how technology can provide individuals with a range of entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • Technology programmes should include a section about social mobility and the impact it can have on individuals’ future professions.
  • Encouraging teachers to participate in programmes and networks to support and help enhance students’ knowledge on IT.
  • Social mobility plans should highlight opportunities in the digital sector and state programmes and partnerships that can help bring people together to make it happen.
  • Monitoring and researching the barriers and solutions for increasing the understanding of technology as a tool for social mobility.