There was a study carried out last year (by Tesco) which interviewed British Asian graduates and apparently, a quarter said their families have a significant influence on the career they chose – compared to less than one in ten white British students.
And when Tesco asked British Asian parents and grandparents what careers they would like their children to pursue, the answers were straight out of a Goodness Gracious Me sketch - medicine (24%), law (19%) and accountancy (14%). Yes, that glowing holy trinity of doctor, lawyer and accountant.
Surveys aren’t always spot-on, and as this one was carried out by the Tesco Asian Network, a group inside Tesco which helps company's British Asian employees develop their careers and attract more people of British Asian ethnicity to join the business, it has its own purpose. But even so, the findings take me back some 17 years. I remember in secondary school that many of my fellow Asian students chose maths, sciences and economics for A-Level study while I was one of the few studying Chaucer, the Italian subjunctive and the workings of our electoral system.
Another stat which arose in the survey is that less than a third of British Asian graduates said their family had no influence at all, compared to almost half of the white British student group. More interestingly, a significant 18% would let their family's views strongly affect their decision (and 3& even said they would put their family’s wishes ahead of their own).
So why are British Asians more influenced by their families in their choice of career than their white counterparts? British Asian business success stories, the Asian rich list and the idea of wealth equalling success are common emblems in our culture and ones many aspire to be part of and believe in. Of course, there are millions for whom medicine, law and accountancy are the right career paths, but I know I speak for some of my acquaintances who, at the tender age of 35, already feel sick at the thought of another 30 years in these very same careers, ones they embarked on under a significant dose of family pressure.
It’s certainly not a case of saying, ‘Don’t listen to your family.’ In the UK, students take potentially life-shaping decisions at a young age and parents can be pivotal in ensuring these decisions are the right ones. But like doctors, parents aren’t always right. For those lucky enough to have a vocation which does not fall neatly into their family’s idea of success, following their heart is not the worst thing they could do. But then I would say that - I’m a freelance writer and have to make myself feel better about the fact that I’ll never appear on that rich list...