Dr Louise Ashley delivers a webinar on social mobility in the City

The webinar explored stigma as a mechanism of social exclusion in the UK’s elite financial service firms

Watch the seminar

Building from Goffman’s classic work, a significant body of academic research has considered how people experience stigma and manage its effects. While this has yielded valuable insights, scholars have recently underlined that stigma has a political function as a form of governmentality and social control. The current study explores how stigma works as an effect of power in the City of London’s elite financial service firms, which have introduced a range of measures aimed at widening access and facilitating upward social mobility for young people from working-class backgrounds over the past fifteen years. These measures respond to evidence of inequalities in access to and progression within these firms but I show that as young working-class people negotiate graduate recruitment processes, they experience stigma and shame, leaving many feeling fundamentally excluded from organisational life. Exclusion of this type is not necessarily enacted with strategic intent but is on the other hand one way in which the boundaries of these elite organisations are subtly managed and contained. As existing social hierarchies are reproduced, Dr Louise Ashley (University of London) argues that the primary beneficiaries of organisational social mobility programmes are (paradoxically) the City’s current elites.


Dr Louise Ashley lectures in Organisation Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. She specialises in researching diversity and inclusion in large multinational organisations and 'elite' occupations with a particular focus on social class, gender and ethnicity.  Dr Ashley has published articles in leading academic journals and her research has been widely covered in mainstream media. She regularly takes part in speaking engagements to report her findings to a practitioner audience and consults to the private sector and third sector organisations in relation to the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion practice and policy. She has led teams appointed by the government's Social Mobility Commission (SMC) to understand barriers to entry on the basis of socio-economic background, in law, accountancy and investment banking, and has delivered research projects recently on socio-economic diversity in investment management for the Diversity Project Charity and in medical education for Social Mobility Foundation/Health Education England. She is a member of several advisory boards including for the social mobility charity UpReach, is on the academic advisory panel for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) and is a Research Fellow for the Bridge Group. She is also a Working Group member on the Corporation of the City of London Socioeconomic Diversity Taskforce. Her book, 'Highly Discriminating: Why the City isn't Fair, Why Diversity Doesn't Work - and What We Can Do' will be published by Bristol University Press in 2022.

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