Science

Understanding Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences

  • Thought Leadership

The life sciences industry is one that prides itself on being innovative and forward-thinking. However, there are areas where improvements could be made to ensure the sector is more diverse and socio-economic diversity is one of these areas. The sector is predominantly populated with people from higher socio-economic backgrounds, and there are still significant barriers to pursuing a career in the life sciences for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

What do we Mean by Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences?

Socio-economic diversity in Life Sciences refers to a range of people from different socio-economic statuses. Previously society was generally divided into the wealthy and the poor. We now understand that society and the opportunities available to people are a bit more complex than simply how much wealth a person has. Socio-economic status refers to the resources that people have available to them that are not limited to money. People from lower socio-economic statuses have fewer opportunities and lower means to improve their social status.

For an industry such as the life science sector to achieve socio-economic diversity, it would mean that people working within the industry would be drawn from a range of backgrounds, including higher and lower socio-economic groups.

Why is Socio-Economic Diversity Important?

We know that diversity in Life Sciences is important for innovation and productivity within the workplace. Research has shown that diverse groups of people work better on tasks and are more innovative in their thinking, than groups of people who are all very similar. It is, therefore, an issue that within the life sciences industry, people from more privileged backgrounds, or who are of higher socio-economic status, are overrepresented. In simple terms, this means that within life sciences, the majority contributing to the innovation are similar, privileged voices.

People with different experiences in life, who could bring different ideas to the table and drive innovation in different ways, are not making it into the industry. If the life sciences sector wants to become more diverse, the barriers experienced by people within lower socio-economic status groups need to be understood and dismantled.

School Areas has an Impact on Accessing Life Science Careers

People from lower socio-economic backgrounds face a huge number of obstacles when trying to pursue a career in the life sciences. The barriers begin early in life with education within secondary school being worse for lower socio-economic areas, leading to pupil attainment in subjects such as science being lower than in other areas. Career guidance may also not focus on careers in areas such as life sciences as they are viewed as being for people from more affluent areas.

For those who do have a passion for pursuing a career in life sciences, the area they come from will continue to have an impact. University places at the most prestigious institutions are predominantly awarded to students from the higher socio-economic areas. Competition for university places can be fierce, and having additional supporting information is often the deciding factor when numerous applicants have similar academic achievement.

Young people from more affluent families will have more opportunities to engage in volunteer work, unpaid work experience or have connections in the field where valuable experiences can be achieved. Young people from lower socio-economic status families will usually miss out on these opportunities with the eventual effect of reducing diversity in Life Sciences.

The University Experience is Not Equal for All

Anyone who has managed to climb over the obstacles and gain a place at university to study life sciences will still face significant barriers. Having to work as well as study is something that separates people from higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds as those with more affluent families will usually not need to work and can dedicate more time to their academic achievements.

Evidence shows that there is still a tendency to appoint graduates into life science jobs from well-known or prestigious universities. This means that even if a person from a less well-known university achieves outstanding grades, they are likely to miss out on a job to someone from a prestigious university, even if the grades are not as good. Recruiters tend to target specific universities, so there are far fewer opportunities than many well qualified, but lower socio-economic status people, will ever get to know about.

Valuing Socio-Economic Diversity

It is clear that someone from a lower socio-economic background will have a very different experience of education, employment and life compared to someone from a higher socio-economic background. Bringing this mix of perspectives and experiences is what socio-economic diversity in Life Sciences is all about, as everyone has a valid contribution to bring.

At Xlpore, we value diversity and want to help you to recruit the right people to the right roles, so get in touch with us today.

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