Our society is constantly evolving and thankfully in recent years we’ve seen an increased awareness of the need for inclusivity and the power of diversity. But it’s important that we remind ourselves that diversity isn’t just about gender or race. 

Those who are socio-economically disadvantaged are often excluded and this is one of the biggest factors that affects your quality of life and future opportunities. The longer this persists, the wider the gap between the inclusive, accepting society I hope we one day become and the current reality for those from more deprived backgrounds.

Workplaces – big or small – have huge potential to improve for our communities. I wouldn’t expect things to change with a massive overnight shift, particularly for big, established businesses, but every small step does matter. 

Startups, on the other hand, offer exciting opportunities. They’re often smaller and more agile, and therefore they have great potential to aid social mobility and implement a structure that welcomes people from all walks of life from the very beginning. They play a big role in our economy and with their chance to embed social mobility from the start by building on these values they can commit to longer-term action. 

Currently many new businesses are unfortunately often exclusionary in both their hiring policies and the technology they roll-out. As an example, most startups are mobile only and often iPhone only. The pandemic highlighted how being financially-disadvantaged can lead to digital poverty, with underprivileged young people falling further behind because of not having access to the same technology. 

When it comes to advancing any aspect of diversity there needs to be an intention to it. Callsign’s partnership with the ‘Social Mobility startup of the Year’ award is a great example. The UK Social Mobility Awards 2022 opened for entry on 25th April and will close on 24th June. There are three individual and nine organisational categories organisations can get involved in such as Innovation, startup of the Year, Community Programme of the Year and more. This is one of the many ways organisations can take action to benefit social mobility. It aims to recognise those including people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds in product or services development and through their employment including apprenticeships, paid internships or helping to upskill through community outreach programmes.

‘Diversity & inclusion is about progress, not perfection’

We live in a society where a large segment of the population doesn’t get the same chance to contribute fully in many major industries, simply because they happen to be born poor. Startups can positively impact social mobility by making sure they provide opportunities for under-represented communities.  This will also give businesses access to a talent pool who can provide a different, and valuable perspective and experiences. 

Many organisations are hesitant to act because the concept itself seems complex and they don’t know where to begin. Yes, the issue is big and means different things to different people. Understanding which communities are socio-economically disadvantaged can be challenging to determine and it is not a protected characteristic.  But organisations can take small but important steps to change things such as adjusting the way they recruit or operate the business, like working with under-privileged communities by going into schools and providing work-experience. 

Organisations and startups have the power to combat social mobility, but action needs to be taken. By taking small steps, you can change lives – so my question to startups is, what’s stopping you?