We were delighted to sponsor the latest instalment of the BVCA's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Series: Social Mobility

The private equity and venture capital industry in the UK has struggled to represent people from socially diverse backgrounds for many years. The BVCA is looking to address this issue and to make the industry more accessible to a wider range of recruits from different backgrounds.

"Career advancement should be based on merit, not parental occupation, birthplace, or educational background."

Social Mobility in
UK Offices

The Equity Record 2023, a report by Diversity.VC, has revealed striking disparities in the private equity and venture capital sector. It shows that the chances for success and opportunities are disproportionately in favour of individuals from privileged upper-class backgrounds. In the UK, more than 70% of venture capital partners come from affluent families. 

The Progress Together Data Report 2023 also found that those from higher socio-economic backgrounds are more than twice as likely to be found in senior roles, compared with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

BVCA DEI Series:
Social Mobility

An integral part of the BVCA’s mission is to promote inclusion within our industry and support firms to build inclusive environments in which everyone can thrive. The BVCA promotes the participation of people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations, including representation in investment and senior roles.

Key takeaways on how to achieve diverse hiring 

  • Keep track of social class metrics
To address socio-economic diversity in the workforce, companies need to start by measuring it. Currently, only 14% of financial services companies track this data. Companies should use anonymous employee surveys to gather information on department, organisational level, and background indicators like parents' occupations and education type. Responses should always be aggregated and not traceable. This data can then be used to drive action for greater diversity, considering broader intersectional factors. Simply collecting data is not enough; it must inspire change.

  • Focus on potential, not prestige
Companies should reconsider degree requirements, especially for entry-level positions, acknowledging that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds often face barriers to higher education due to financial constraints. Removing the degree requirement for suitable roles is essential, alongside ending the automatic favouring of graduates from prestigious universities, which may exclude talented individuals. Instead, employers should focus on potential over prestige when evaluating candidates, considering qualities like teachability, enthusiasm, ambition, and ethics through skills-based assessments and structured interviews, rather than solely relying on educational or work history.

  • Establish clear paths for career progression
To achieve true inclusion, it's crucial to transition employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds into C-suite roles. This requires establishing a talent pipeline that nurtures them from entry-level positions, with full support from current C-suite members. Each leader must be willing to shed biases and actively support career growth for these individuals. Ideally, C-level leaders should also mentor employees from diverse backgrounds for future leadership positions. Career advancement should be based on merit, not parental occupation, birthplace, or educational background.

Meet the panel

Sophie Hulm

Sophie is the CEO of Progress Together, a programme which focuses on socio-economic diversity at senior levels, defined as Non-Executive Board, Executive Committee and two levels down. Prior to this, Sophie was Head of Skills Policy at the City of London, where she founded a Government-commissioned Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce. Sophie sees a clear link between the skills and labour challenges which exist in UK financial services and the need for greater socio-economic diversity at senior levels. Sophie currently sits on the SteerCo for the 30% Club and has led several high-profile initiatives, including the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards.

Progress Together

David Houghton

David leads research at Diversity VC and authored the Equity Record Report exploring socio-economic diversity within UK venture capital, finding that more than 70% of UK VCs hail from highly privileged, upper socioeconomic backgrounds. A passionate advocate for social mobility through technology and entrepreneurship, David founded 93% Ventures, an organisation creating access and opportunities in venture capital and tech for those from underprivileged backgrounds.


Malika Arshad

Malika is a Business Development Associate at Future Planet Capital, an Impact-led venture capital firm. Working alongside a variety of teams, Malika works on strategic partnerships, fundraising & investor engagement, and various investment opportunities at the firm. She has been an advocate for diversity, widening participation and access to opportunities for underrepresented groups across a variety of panels in her professional and academic career.

Future Planet Capital