Social mobility – good for people, good for society, good for business

The UK Social Mobility Commission defines social mobility as the link between a person’s occupation or income and the occupation or income of their parents. Where there is a strong link, there is a lower level of social mobility and where there is a weak link, there is a higher level of social mobility.1

According to research from the Social Mobility Commission, children from high-income backgrounds who show signs of low academic capability are 35 per cent more likely to be a high earner than children from low-income backgrounds who show signs of high ability.2 And so, across government, society, and business – improving social mobility and driving more equitable outcomes for people from low-income backgrounds matters now more than ever.

To help address this issue, Macquarie takes a two-pronged approach through the Macquarie Group Foundation’s grantmaking strategy, and our HR talent and recruitment strategies.

“Improving social mobility continues to be a business imperative as corporates understand the social and commercial benefits of building a diverse talent pipeline,” says Rachel Engel, Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation in EMEA, but it presents unique challenges.

“It’s easier to see that you don’t have enough women or people from black or minority ethnic backgrounds in the business, than it is to understand whether you’re employing sufficient numbers of people from low socio-economic backgrounds,” she says. “It’s only when you ask what the careers of parents are, whether people were on free school meals and/or, if they were the first in their family to go to university, that you begin to see the gaps.”


How business can help build social capital

As Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation says, “social disadvantage in the UK means despite how smart, talented or hard working some young people are, their background limits their opportunities in life. It also means businesses and the economy miss out on top talent.”

Rachel adds, “and so, the Macquarie Group Foundation strategy in EMEA is dedicated to helping people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds access employment. This is achieved through providing funding and employability support which is focused on re-skilling, training and placing people (16 to 80+) into enduring jobs and meaningful work.

Through our work with the UK’s Social Mobility Foundation, who we’ve been supporting since 2019, we know that attainment gaps in education vary significantly – the disadvantage gap in London is half the rest of the UK, and 7 of the worst 8 local authorities are in Wales. This is why our grant making strategy focuses on supporting people facing barriers into employment.”

The Macquarie Group Foundation has an expanding portfolio of 11 non-profit partnerships across Europe with the aim of providing funds to organisations working in social mobility cold spots such as; the UK’s Social Mobility Foundation funding their Cardiff office, StreetLeague’s work in Edinburgh and the Lothians, who use sport to tackle poverty across the UK, Tomillo in Spain who support young people in vulnerable situations in South Madrid where youth unemployment is over 40 per cent and Socialbee in Germany, a social enterprise supporting refugees and migrants into work.

Macquarie Group Foundation grant partners across EMEA visited Macquarie's London office to discuss the work they’re each doing to help people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds access employment.


The Macquarie Group Foundation’s work is interconnected with Macquarie’s own HR initiatives aimed at improving social mobility. The HR team aims to target a diverse workforce, with a focus on sourcing people to come into Macquarie outside of traditional employment routes.

“We know that the teams who are most successful are those which are diverse. Whether that’s diversity of thought, gender, sexuality, the list goes on. We also recognise that we need to be creating more opportunities for those from underrepresented backgrounds,” says Emma Cahill, Head of Early Careers at Macquarie in EMEA.

“We host workshops offering practical support and advice to help candidates prepare and get access to resources that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” she says. “We explain why we have psychometric testing and what they need to do to prepare for it. We show videos of good interviews and provide the students opportunities to discuss and learn from them. These workshops give them the confidence to present themselves in the best possible way in an interview. Very often we find graduate candidates from low socio-economic backgrounds have not had the opportunity to do an internship, but they typically have other life experiences that demonstrate their commitment and resilience.”


Increasing the reach of our talent pool

As part of our culture, Macquarie continuously works on new initiatives and opportunities to best support diverse talent.

The Junior Associate Programme is an example of how we support alternative pathways into Macquarie and provide opportunities for young people to progress into the Graduate Programme. Within the programme, students in their second year of university, work for Macquarie two days a week to gain real life experience in the financial sector. This is a unique programme involving partnership between Macquarie, London Works, ReachOut, The Bright Network, and the Social Mobility Foundation to provide career access to social mobility candidates who are studying at a London University.

Another programme supporting junior talent is the Rise to It Programme, which aims to provide year 12 students from low socio-economic backgrounds and underrepresented communities financial assistance, covering their full university maintenance and tuition fees as well as offering hands-on work experience at Macquarie. Students who are selected for the programme have the opportunity to build their networks and access valuable career development resources. The scholarship works with Foundation partners such as Universify and the Social Mobility Foundation to identify candidates.

In addition, Macquarie is hosting a Women in Business series for women in their penultimate year of university, with the aim of supporting females from social mobility backgrounds through the recruitment process, equipping them with the skills and confidence to succeed, through skills-based workshops, case studies and career-driven activities. The inaugural programme will allow women to explore the career opportunities available to them at Macquarie by learning more about the business, what people do every day, and the impact Macquarie has on the community.


Attracting diverse talent

More broadly, social mobility has a practical imperative for Macquarie, as it does all organisations, points out Sarah Fennell, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Macquarie in EMEA. “To remain competitive, we have to access the full talent market and not just a subset of it,” she says. “If you really want innovation and diversity of thought you need to attract and recruit people from different backgrounds, with different ways of thinking.”

Macquarie’s commitment to social mobility, she says, is integral to its vision as a company, “our purpose is to empower people to innovate and invest for a better future and we want that future to offer something for everyone.”

Emma adds, “as we aim to cultivate innovation, we are looking to refining our recruitment strategies and how we offer opportunities going forward – to make the process more equitable. We need to give people an equitable landscape from the outset.”



  1. About us – Social Mobility Commission’, UK Government
  2. Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, ‘New research exposes the 'glass floor' in British society’, UK Government, 26 July 2015