Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
01 Sep 2016

Culture of conformity: disadvantaged graduates judged by their clothes

01 Sep 2016 • by Changeboard Team

Investment banks have been found to turn down graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds as they fail to fit in with the culture, with the cut of a prospects suit even considered a contributing factor. 

A report by the Social Mobility Commission revealed that the industry still favours candidates from middle and higher-income families that have studied at the country’s top seven universities.

Talented youngsters from worse off backgrounds that were unaware of ‘opaque’ city dress codes were at a disadvantage, as managers often select graduates that fit the traditional image of an investment banker for client-facing roles. 

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission said: “Bright working class-kids are being systematically locked out of top jobs in investment banking because they may not attend a small handful of elite universities or understand arcane culture rules.

“It is shocking, for example, that some investment bank managers still judge candidates on whether they wear brown shoes with a suit, rather than their skills and potential.”

Researchers from Royal Holloway University of London and the University of Birmingham also found that young people who aspire to senior roles must find work experience. These positions often favour candidates with prior connections to the industry.

Despite the pre-existing criteria, the report found that while progress towards greater social mobility is small-scale, some investment banks are improving their employment habits.

Dr Louise Ashley, from Royal Holloway University of London commented: “Banks are making good progress addressing these issues through outreach and work experience, but more needs to be done to understand the barriers to entry. This need to be accompanied by changes to the way that candidates are recruited and selected.”