Mentoring And Class
Shona Floate in equality, diversity and inclusion
20th February 2023 -  3 mins read

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right? We have all heard this old adage, from a well-meaning friend, relative or colleague. And it is certainly true that having experienced connections within your field can be a huge advantage to your professional success. But what does this mean for those you don’t have this kind of connection? In recent years, as concerns around equality and diversity have increased, we have come to recognise that phenomena such as nepotism provide unfair advantages to those in middle- and upper-classes and act to the detriment of the working-class. However, inequities do not have to be as evident as nepotism in order to have an adverse effect. Simply existing within middle- and upper-class communities can provide the aspirational with the covert knowledge, behaviours and even language that can help them get ahead. Research shows that mentoring within institutions can help effectively balance these inequities. With a mindful and customisable mentoring system such as SUMAC setting up a practitioner-led mentoring program has never been easier.

In her autobiographical essay, “What’s a Girl Like you Doing in a Place Like This?” (2012)  Cheryl Simrell King explores the experiences of working-class students in America and the ways in which mentorship can work in their favour. Crucially, she highlights the invisibility of class differences. Whereas the disadvantages someone might face due to their race or gender are usually visibly apparent, the differences between those of different classes can more easily fly under the radar. This can act as a barrier to these differences being addressed. King writes that, ‘folks who are not of working-class backgrounds presume everyone had access to whatever they need. Middle- and upper-class people do not think about these access presumptions, so deeply ingrained are they in the consciousness of all Americans, even the working class’ (51). So, how can these issues be improved if they are invisible to even those who they affect the most?


Here at SUMAC we are committed to equality and diversity of all kinds. We firmly believe that mentoring is an important facet of improving the work life of all. Another way to help those who may be disadvantaged within your workplace is by being vocal in your support. As King pointed out the struggles of some can go unnoticed by those who are more privileged so being proactively vocal on your social media platforms as well as within company policies and events about your support for those who are from working-class backgrounds can make a big difference. In addition, scheduling talks and workshops with equality and diversity experts can ensure the continued development of you and your employees’ awareness of the barriers themselves and their co-workers may face. Finally, investing in additional training courses and skills development for your employees can help those who may not have had access to certain skill sets and knowledge to progress, benefitting both your employees and your company.

Effective Matching

Vital to the success of any good mentoring programme is the effective matching of mentors to mentees, and vice versa. With SUMAC’s intuitive and highly customisable interface you can choose down to the last detail exactly how you would like your mentors and mentees to be matched. Simply enter the questions you wish each party to be evaluated on, send out the link to your signup form and our system will do the rest. This means that you can intentionally source mentors who want to improve the careers of those with working-class backgrounds or find mentors for mentees who may be struggling with particular issues. In this way, SUMAC can help you to find the optimal matches for your organisation's specific needs.

Want to find out more about how SUMAC can help improve equality, diversity and inclusion in your organisation? Schedule a free demo today to find out more!