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Investment banks struggle to recruit working class students, humanities students, women, and white people

Everyone knows there are tens of thousands of people applying for jobs in investment banks. Some people, however, appear keener to apply to investment banks than others.

Academics at the University of California and Duke University conducted detailed interviews with 56 students at Stanford and Harvard Universities in the US. Their findings, published in the Sociology of Education Journal, are shown in the charts below.

Career choices by social class

If the sample of Stanford and Harvard students is representative of all students, finance firms have a serious problem with working class students. None of the students with a working class family background wanted to work in finance. They were far more interested in the so-called 'impact careers' of education, charity, public service,or creative media. - 55% of working class students were applying for these roles, with another 22% applying for tech and consulting respectively.

Meanwhile, the students who were interested in finance careers were disproportionately upper middle class. The days when, Lloyd Blankfein, son of a postal clerk, went into banking, seem to be over.

Career choices by gender

Banks also have an issue with women. The women in the sample were disproportionately interested in technology careers, and a greater proportion than men were interested in 'traditional professions' (law, medicine, management in corporates). However, only 11% of women were interested in finance careers, compared to 28% of men.

Career choices by race

Finance careers were also comparatively unattractive to members of the sample who were either white or mixed race. Mixed race candidates were disproportionately interested in technology careers. White candidates were more interested in impact careers. Asian and black or Hispanic students were more interested in finance.

Career choices by subject

Lastly, finance firms were seriously lacking in appeal to humanities students. None of the humanities students in the sample wanted to work in finance, preferring to work in impact careers and consulting instead.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Bo
    8 September 2016

    You're right, a lot of the hungry and obsessive people who love finance are working in fintech, their own funds, and in other entrepreneurial areas of finance, outside of investment banks. They have more freedoms, can be their own boss, and where they have more potential upside (and downside). Banking isn't as lucrative as it once was. Mass regulatory burdens post 2008 cutting down margins, bonus caps, automation and job replacement etc. There are better opportunities elsewhere.

  • Jo
    28 November 2015

    "its due to the exclusive hiring of just middle-class and upper-class students from the 2008-present. HR just scan for elite universities"

    The elitism of a university has nothing to do with the socio-economic background of their students. Working class kids get admitted to elite universities too.

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