Vincent Egunlae’s key insights from experience: “The people who have influenced and hold the top jobs across media, the judiciary, politics, finance or pretty much any professional service…. are five times more likely to attend a private school than the general population. And I feel that that lack of diversity is suboptimal economically, and it’s morally undesirable. But why does it happen? We all know the privately educated students are typically more likely to be from wealthier backgrounds. But it isn’t simply just that they have more money that produces better outcomes.”
“I still remember that when I started my first job as an auditor and I sat down and met a partner for the first time, I couldn’t stop calling him sir, just because that’s what I was used to.”
Vincent outlined the career path of a private school student and the unequal contrast with equal – or higher performing students – albeit students who attended state schools. He highlighted the difference it makes being exposed to wealthy environments and feeling comfortable in this sphere.
Speaking about the challenges even top students in state schools face after university, he said: “then, when you get your first job, you’re still less likely to feel comfortable in that environment because you’ve never been there before. You’re less likely to have grown up with access to senior professionals. When you’re in that kind of environment where you feel intimidated, where you feel like things are new… then it’s tough to display that confidence that only truly comes with familiarity. And that means it’s difficult to hit the ground running; first impressions count for so much in the professional world.”
“Disadvantage begins with a lack of finance, but it survives through a lack of exposure to resources, opportunities, and networks. At the Open Private School, we want to expose our students to the right opportunities, believing that if we give them the right resources, and the right information, and the right level of support, that they can be just as good as anybody else.”
Vincent shared his own inexperience navigating the careers and the corporate world after university with lighthearted humour, while still emphasising the disadvantage Open PrivateSchool is tackling.
“I remember after finishing an interview, I went out with the other candidates I’d interviewed with. And they said: ‘did you apply for the big four?’ And I remember I was wondering, why would I apply for Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal?”
Vincent Egunlae’s practical steps to increase diversity: “What I would encourage people to do is something that I’m also trying to do this year, and that is to spend more time learning about more under-represented groups that I don’t have natural affinity with. Because, while I am black and Muslim, I am able bodied, I’m a male; first I need to understand the privileges that I have, so I can better understand how I can make a difference for those that need it.”