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Class Issues that Predict Career Success in White-Collar Professions by Mani Pillai


I recently switched from industry to academia where I am pursuing a doctoral research on the career experiences of women and BMEs in one subsection of financial services. I come from a working class and marginalised background and, while my career has been in white-collar jobs, I still consider myself working class.

While in industry, my awareness of my background was latent, but since moving to academia, this has reversed. Perhaps, it is because my reading and learning have been widened as a result of my research. But the feeling of injustice I feel is also down to hearing upper-caste Indian academics writing that race issues trump class issues in the UK.

To compound my discomfiture further, I was told that if I were interested in looking at my research through critical race and post-colonialism lenses, I ought to read the works from three high-profile academicians, all of whom, as it happens, are from India. As someone with Indian heritage myself, their surnames alone indicate to me that they are upper-caste Indians.

I have decided not to include their works in my research out of principle and the values I hold. The UK, like many Asian countries, is steeped in class. Everyone is defined by class which is what I had learnt when I mixed with the upper-classes while working in industry. I hid my class through my accent, my interests and an intrinsic desire to do well in my career.

Employment data in the UK shows that Indians are successful participants in the employment market. Research from US academics show that majority of Asian upper-echelon executives come form upper and middle classes.

For Indian academics to assert that race issues are more important than class issues in employment and, thereby, disregarding the advantages and disadvantages of class backgrounds in their works, seems to me, that they want to play the victim while being the victor in the employment market. More academics working in this space need to probe into class issues that predict career success in white-collar professions.

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Ragged University is in partnership with the Working Class Academics conference sharing its ideals and love of open intellectual spaces


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