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GSE Lecture Series - Associate Professor Sam Friedman (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Graduate School of Education Lecture Series

Event details

The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged

The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceilings’, preventing women and minority ethnic groups from getting to the top are well documented. Yet questions of social class - and specifically class origin – have been largely absent from debates about diversity and inclusion, particularly among the UK HE workforce. In this talk I begin by drawing on data from Britain’s largest employment survey, The Labour Force Survey, to demonstrate that a powerful and previously unrecognised “class pay gap” exists in Britain’s higher professional and managerial occupations, including UK academia. I then switch focus to ask why this pay gap exists. Specifically, I draw on 175 interviews across four occupational case studies – television, accountancy, architecture, and acting. This demonstrates that the class ceiling can only be very partially attributed to conventional measures of ‘merit’. Instead, more powerful drivers are rooted in the misrecognition of classed self-presentation as ‘talent’, work cultures historically shaped by the privileged, the affordances of the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, and sponsored mobility premised on class-cultural homophily.


About The Speaker

Sam Friedman is Associate Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He has published widely on comedy, social mobility and social class. He is also the publisher of Fest magazine, the largest magazine covering the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.



Event will be hosted by Dr Li Li, Director of Research, and Professor Anna Mountford-Zimdars, Co-Director of the Centre for Social Mobility.


A recording of the lecture is now available on ELE for Exeter IT Account holders.