Breaking the Social Class Barrier
Holding an Economics degree from City, my interests have always been skewed toward quantitative subjects. I was anxious to start my EMBA core modules on topics such as Organisational Behaviour. Little did I know that I would learn the mathematical formula that I now use to explain my ambitions during these lessons. In a simplified form, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation states that an individual’s drive to pursue a goal is a function of two variables: 1) the strength of her or his desire to fulfil that goal, and 2) the probability that it will actually happen.
Another subject that wasn’t previously on my radar was our module on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but my interest in the topic has flourished. For our CSR coursework, we were asked to analyse BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to S&P 500 CEOs. In his 2018 letter, Mr Fink called on companies to take a more active role in addressing societal issues and also emphasised the importance of a diverse board.
This prompted me to browse the C-suite composition of the largest banking institutions in the world. I found that banks continue to make progress on diversity of gender, ethnicity, industry experience, and country of origin. When taking a closer look at the early life and education of randomly picked board members, a pattern emerged. Despite the characteristics that make them unique as individuals, most appeared to have privileged backgrounds that led them to receive similar education. How could they possibly not surrender to group think if they attended the same handful of universities and grew up within the same networks?
The reality is that social class is the ultimate barrier to break and that has nothing to do with gender or nationality. The probability component of Vroom’s formula is important in determining people’s motivation to pursue certain careers. Wealthy people with good contacts will have a greater probability to be successful, hence they tend to be highly motivated individuals.
I cannot remember my childhood friends and I dreaming of going to university let alone becoming a chairperson, or a CEO. That is because, just like thousands of teenagers today in Britain, we had zero perceived probability to achieve these goals. Sadly, society labelled us as lazy but we were just a demotivated bunch of youngsters.
With an extraordinary influence on our global economic and political system, financial institutions are increasingly becoming a dominant force directing the world. How can they take decisions that are in the best interest of people if their boardrooms understanding of society’s struggles comes from an economics textbook?
In my opinion, a truly diverse team is one that is made of different social classes and this is something most corporations are getting wrong. Luckily, the desire component of my Vroom’s formula is bigger than a mountain for which I am highly motivated to achieve my goals. We need to show people like my younger self that it is possible to make their dreams come true. This is not just because equal opportunity is a hardly debatable subject but because, without them, the world is missing out.
Natalia Lopez, Executive MBA 2020