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Inside Grant Thornton

Social mobility: I'm proud of my background

16 June 2022 is the UK’s first Social Mobility Awareness Day. Lucie Milosavljevich, one of our researchers, who is currently on a 50% secondment with our inclusion and diversity team, shares why social mobility is important to her. 

I grew up in a working-class family in Worcester and attended a local state school, but there are two main drivers of my interest in social mobility.

The first is that two of my grandparents were immigrants to the UK. My grandmother was Irish, and my Serbian grandfather was a Holocaust survivor who arrived as a refugee. The second is that while I attended a good school, there were many social and economic challenges within my year group that meant only a third of them left with any qualifications.

Can you tell us about your background?

I was fortunate to leave school with both qualifications and received a £30 per week Educational Maintenance Allowance (a means-tested benefit to support people from low socio-economic backgrounds to access further education – sadly, it no longer exists in England), which supported me to attend college and led me to university. All of these experiences made me aware at a young age that people often can’t help the circumstances they find themselves in. 

I’m most proud of my family and everything that they’ve been through and overcome. In particular, my dad, and granddad, who worked incredibly hard in manual jobs to ensure that we were looked after. I think it’s instilled in a strong work ethic in me – and since I was 13 I’ve always had a job.

In many ways I had a lot of privilege, especially when compared to some of the people I went to school with. But Worcester is a semi-rural place, and it was too far from Birmingham and Bristol for any outreach programmes, and at that time its biggest industry (porcelain) was winding down. I never would have dreamt that a career in professional services was available to me, especially as I’m neither a lawyer nor an accountant.

How have your experiences influenced your career?

Having joined a law firm as a researcher when I finished university, there were two barriers I faced: knowing what to do with money and my confidence. My first salary was £15,000 per year and it was such a big deal to have a salary (instead of a wage) that high. Since then, I’ve had to educate myself about financial wellbeing. However, the biggest barrier is my own confidence.

When I joined the law firm everyone just seemed so much more confident than me. I’m sure this is a combination of personality type and my education and while it remains a work in progress for me, I’ve also learnt that a lot of people, regardless of their background, struggle with confidence.

I think my personal experience has shaped me more than I probably realise.

I’m proud of my background and I think my experience has made me creative, curious and empathetic. The first two are a result of being encouraged by my family to go to the library, our local museum, and art galleries. Both of these exposed me to different cultures and experiences and have ultimately fostered skills that I use every day in my work as a researcher.

What do you think about our firm’s work on social mobility?

There's so much that goes into our social mobility work, including recruitment and sustainability. We constantly strive to make joining the firm more accessible for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, such as removing academic entry requirements and recruiting school leavers.

We also participate in initiatives, such as Access Accountancy and RISE, both of which are targeted at people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. 

Before I started my secondment, I knew we’d done a lot of work in relation to social mobility but having understood it in more depth over the past year, I’m completely blown away by it.

How can we help people from lower socio-economic backgrounds feel included?

We need to be mindful that different people have different lived experiences and there isn’t a “one size fits all”.

Continually focusing conversations on the same topic, or only socialising in particular ways can be exclusionary, even if there is no ill-intent. A recent example of this is talking about 'staycations' during the pandemic. Some people were having to 'make do' with staying in the UK for a holiday, while others may have only ever holidayed in the UK, and some may not have ever been on a holiday. It’s not about stopping these conversations, but being aware of different experiences.

Social mobility is a hidden I&D characteristic, despite 39% of people in the UK being working class.

We know that almost all measures of social mobility (educational achievement, health, income levels and access to digital equipment) have all worsened since the start of the pandemic.The cost-of-living crisis will also have an impact and while it won’t solely impact people from low socio-economic backgrounds, it will be more pronounced for them.

What would you tell your younger self?

Keep going, keep learning and take up the opportunities and mentors that come your way in the process.

Inclusion and diversity

Valuing diversity through everyday inclusion