Where is the business case for improving social mobility?

24 March, 2023

Armoghan Mohammed

Regional Chair for the North, PwC United Kingdom


When I was growing up, there was a perception that when you left school or higher education, you would seamlessly move into a job and career. Unfortunately today, for far too many young people across the country, that certainty no longer exists.

My parents were both immigrants from Pakistan, who left behind teaching jobs to come and work in the textile mills in Yorkshire. I grew up in Huddersfield and, after losing my father at aged 9, my siblings and I were brought up by my mother. She was a very strong person. She had four children, and she brought us up with good ethics and values. The thing that she promoted more than anything else was education. Although I still agree that education is important, it’s also the ability to translate education and learning into skills in the workplace and include life skills. 

In my view, all businesses have a responsibility to make themselves accessible and to represent the society that we work in. In my role as PwC’s Regional leader in the North of England I have the privilege to work with people from all cultures, backgrounds and communities, and employment opportunities should reflect this. I am a representation of British society and people like me should have access to places like PwC and other professional service organisations.

But what does diversity at the upper echelons of business bring to the table? It represents the people that are in the communities an organisation operates in. It also brings a diversity of thought. Diversity at the top of an organisation is really important. It’s one of the factors that foster innovation and prevent groupthink. I love having a range of different points of view from different backgrounds. For me it’s the continuation of that journey of learning.

There are businesses who understand this responsibility, and who are actively working to improve the diversity of thought in their organisations. But too often, we only see efforts made at the point of recruitment, whether that’s offering on-the-job training, or providing graduate schemes for university leavers. While these are fantastic offers from employers, what happens to the people who don’t have access to the necessary technology to undertake the pre-employment training? Or those who didn’t think higher university was for them?

There is a desperate need to create a level playing field at the recruitment stage, but this work must start before candidates even consider professional services organisations as a career prospect.

I am a representation of British society and people like me should have access to places like PwC and other professional service organisations.

Our purpose at PwC is to help build trust in society and solve important problems. This is why social mobility is at the heart of our PwC strategy. It’s important to us that our vision and strategy cover our activities as both a responsible employer and a responsible business which is why we also have a social mobility vision and strategy, with clear targets against which we hold ourselves to account. In our 2022 annual report, we once again published our socio-economic background (SEB) pay and bonus gaps, the data of which is based on parental occupation information shared with us by 82% of our people. Tracking this data allows us to understand our people and to demonstrate the value of investing in candidates and employees from all backgrounds.

Supporting skills development and social mobility is not just about who comes to work for us; it’s about how we can support a much wider group of people to progress as far as their preferences, talent and determination will take them, whatever career path that takes them down. That’s why our strategy covers our activities within our communities, as well as the work we do to recruit and develop our people. 

When we stood back and thought about how we could implement a social mobility strategy as a business, we found the following not only made an impact in our local communities, but could be measured and reported on too:

  • Partnering with local schools to hold experience days, building soft skills and exposing young people to employers and careers. I recently met a group of school children in our Leeds office attending a tech skills day. I remember one of the students mentioning he’d never been as high as the 7th floor he was now on.. 

  • Providing alternative routes to employment through ‘earn as you learn’ models, we’ve tried to do this through our Tech Degree Apprenticeships

  • Identifying gaps in talent and working with higher education providers to promote careers in these areas, we’ve been really pleased with the success rate from the 6 week academies we’ve run to help local candidates acquire career skills. .

  • Removing grade-based barriers to entry in order to broaden the pool of candidates 

As well as it being the right thing to do, implementing a social mobility strategy will help us all to create a better prepared and equipped workforce for tomorrow. It drives growth and improves the local economies in which we conduct business, and importantly, it helps to create better and fairer communities in which we have the privilege to live.


Armoghan Mohammed

Regional Chair for the North, PwC United Kingdom


Follow us