The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceilings’, preventing women and minority ethnic groups from getting to the top are well documented. Yet questions of social class - and specifically class origin – have been largely absent from these debates.
In this AMCIS seminar, Friedman begins by drawing on new data from Britain’s largest employment survey, The Labour Force Survey, to demonstrate that a powerful and previously unrecognised “class pay gap” exists in Britain’s higher professional and managerial occupations.
He then switches focus to ask why this pay gap exists. Specifically, he draws on 175 interviews across four occupational case studies – television, accountancy, architecture, and acting. This demonstrates that the class ceiling can only be very partially attributed to conventional measures of ‘merit’. Instead, more powerful drivers are rooted in the misrecognition of classed self-presentation as ‘talent’, work cultures historically shaped by the privileged, the affordances of the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, and sponsored mobility premised on class-cultural homophily.
Samuel (Sam) Friedman is Associate Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics. He has published widely on class, culture and social mobility, and recently co-authored The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged (Policy, 2019). He is also the author of Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour (Routledge, 2014) and co-author of Social Class in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2015). He is currently working on a new project looking at the historical development of the British elite, drawing on the entire 120-year database of Who’s Who. Outside of academia he is a Commissioner at the Social Mobility Commission.