Study: Innovation Depends on Environment, Not Just Ability

Study: Innovation Depends on Environment, Not Just Ability

New research by a team of economists from the Equality of Opportunity Project complicates the claim that people from certain backgrounds are just not as productive/innovative/creative/analytical as people from other backgrounds, hence their inability to achieve comparable levels of success in the workplace. The study, which Vox’s Matthew Yglesias got an early look at, found that strong test scores in childhood were less reliable predictors of becoming a successful inventor than growing up in an affluent family in a place with lots of other inventors—in other words, the smartest kids from wealthy families grow up to be inventors and entrepreneurs, but the smartest kids from poor families don’t:

[B]y linking patent application data from 1996 through 2014 to federal income tax returns, the team was able to track inventors’ lives from birth through adulthood to understand who is inventing things and where they come from. And by focusing on the geography of innovation, they show that direct exposure to a culture of invention and to role models appears to be playing a key role.

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Barclays Provides Support to Job Seekers to Turn Them Into Customers

Barclays Provides Support to Job Seekers to Turn Them Into Customers

The jobs search costs for new graduates can be enormous, and not everyone who wants to work in a major city can afford to travel there for job interviews. In the UK, where socioeconomic diversity is becoming an ever-greater focal point of companies’ diversity and inclusion practices, Barclays’s is doing something to help candidates manage that cost. People Management’s Emily Burt has the details on their initiative, which is meant to improve economic diversity by helping graduates who can’t afford to stay in cities while interviewing:

The month-long ‘Barclays Graduate Rooms’ scheme will allow graduates to apply on a first-come, first-served basis for two nights of free accommodation in studio apartments close to their interview locations, regardless of whether their interview is with Barclays or another organisation.

“We hope that by offering free accommodation in some of the most popular cities for graduate jobs, we’ll go some way to helping those who would otherwise struggle,” said Sue Hayes, managing director of personal banking at Barclays.

Barclays here is acknowledging how much of a barrier to entry these costs can be to candidates from outside major urban areas and less affluent backgrounds:

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Is ‘Degree Inflation’ Driving Inequality in the US?

Is ‘Degree Inflation’ Driving Inequality in the US?

Most of the new jobs created in the US in the wake of the Great Recession have gone to workers with college degrees, and the wage premium Americans gain from holding a bachelor’s degree rather than just a high school diploma is higher than it has been in 40 years. Partly due to the higher number of college-educated candidates on the market, a bachelor’s degree has become a baseline requirement for most middle-class jobs. The decline of good jobs for less educated and lower-skilled workers is commonly understood to be a driver of inequality and social stratification in the US today.

A new report published on Tuesday by Harvard Business School, Accenture, and Grads of Life underlines the extent to which “degree inflation”—jobs for which a college degree was once optional and is now a requirement—is compounding this problem. According to the report, 6 million American jobs are at risk of degree inflation, as employers have “defaulted to using college degrees as a proxy for a candidate’s range and depth of skills.”

Axios’ Christopher Matthews discusses the report’s implications with one of its authors:

“This phenomenon is a major driver of income inequality,” Joe Fuller of Harvard Business School tells Axios. “We’re hollowing out middle-class jobs and driving everyone to the extremes of the income spectrum.” …

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Take Someone Else’s Kid to Work Day?

Take Someone Else’s Kid to Work Day?

This Thursday, many working parent throughout the US will participate in Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, an event meant to give children a small glimpse inside the working world. The event originated as Take Your Daughter to Work Day in 1993 as an effort to promote gender equality both by getting girls interested in work and by making adult women more visible in the workplace, but since the name and theme was changed to include boys in 2003, it has “lost much of its animating purpose,” Brookings Institution fellow Richard Reeves argues at Quartz. To bring the day back to its roots in diversity and inclusion, Reeves suggests that parents find children other than their own to take to work—particularly those whose own parents don’t have workplaces to take them to:

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is intended to get children thinking about their future careers, but by having parents take their own kids to work, we perpetuate class divides. If your mother is a lawyer, you spend the day in a law firm. If your dad stocks shelves in a grocery store, then—if he is even allowed to bring you along—that’s what you will see. If your parents are unemployed, you don’t have a chance to go anywhere at all. And so the wheel turns. …

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Report: Most UK Internships Not Advertised to Public

Report: Most UK Internships Not Advertised to Public

Social mobility has been under the spotlight in the UK recently, with universities and employers being called upon to address the disadvantages people from less affluent socioeconomic backgrounds experience in the university application process and the job market. For example, mitigating the effects of class bias is a key rationale behind UK employers adopting “college-blind” recruiting—no longer targeting graduates of elite institutions—or removing the requirement that applicants have a college degree at all.

Another practice that is being increasingly scrutinized as a barrier to social mobility is the unpaid internship, which critics argue gives an unfair advantage to young people with well-off families who can afford to support them while they gain experience in their field without earning a salary. Late last year, the government said it was reviewing the use of unpaid internships and considering imposing new restrictions on them, if not an outright ban.

A new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research gives critics of internships some fresh fodder, Marianne Calnan reports at People Management, finding that the total number of internships available in the UK each year (around 70,000) is more than six times the number that are publicly advertised (11,000), with the remainder effectively reserved for those with the right connections to know about them:

Not only do many of these 60,000 additional positions not offer meaningful learning opportunities or working conditions, they entrench privilege because they are largely inaccessible to those without connections or knowhow, it has been claimed. They also discourage businesses from investing in graduate or other permanent recruitment.

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What Diversity Reports Don’t Show Us

What Diversity Reports Don’t Show Us

Silicon Valley tech companies have lately begun to reconsider their approach to publicly reporting diversity statistics, after a series of reports showing lackluster progress at several major organizations. Some companies are now refocusing their reports on their recruiting goals rather than reporting raw data. However, Gizmodo’s Sidney Fussell argues that to fully understand the challenges the tech sector faces when it comes to diversity and inclusion, the public needs more raw data, not less:

Instead of releasing the raw numbers that align with how employees are organized internally, most diversity splash pages (which are usually cited in diversity write-ups instead of the EEO-1) offer only percentages. With raw numerical data, we’d have a much clearer picture of the myriad diversity issues beyond general demographics. We’d be able to see the race/gender breakdown of new hires, the promotion frequency of women in specific fields, and so on.

One group, women of color, are particularly disadvantaged by the way companies release data. Race and gender are recorded separately. Only the raw data of the EEO-1 allows for intersectional approaches to analysis. Ideally, companies would release raw numbers and information on how it organizes candidates internally. For now, we’re limited to little more than what we’re given. And obviously, it isn’t enough.

The absence of more detailed information, Fussell adds, obscures such matters as the specific obstacles women of color have to deal with in the workplace, and the obstacles that prevent nonwhite employees from rising through the ranks.

Another element that these reports don’t typically capture is socioeconomic diversity. In the UK, KPMG recently became the first organization to publish detailed data on the educational and socioeconomic backgrounds of its employees, Sara Bean reports at Workplace Insight:

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Study Shows How Class and Gender Intersect in Hiring Bias

Study Shows How Class and Gender Intersect in Hiring Bias

At Science of Us, Drake Baer highlights some interesting new research into how signals of social class disclosed on resumes may have an impact on hiring. In the study, professors Lauren Rivera and András Tilcsik sent out job applications to 316 top law firms, each of which received an application randomized by gender and social-class background. Social class backgrounds were indicated with several signals, including last name (“Cabot” vs. “Clark”), extracurricular activities, and hobbies and interests. The responses they received were surprising:

Those 316 applications led to 22 interview invitations, good for a 6.96 percent callback rate. (This, the authors note, is consistent with previous studies on white-collar jobs and expectations for applicants who were at the top of their class but didn’t go to super-élite schools.) What was bananas, however, is how that rate skewed by gender: the lower-class male got just one callback, the lower-class female five, the higher-class woman three, and the higher-class man thirteen. That means the blue-blooded James had a 16.25 callback rate, while his nearly identical siblings had a paltry 3.83 callback percentage.

“Coming from a higher-class background only helps men,” Rivera tells Science of Us. “Given my prior research, we thought that social class background would lift all those people regardless of gender, and that was not the case.”

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