What’s Next? Prioritising Diversity in the Third Sector

ACEVO’s Head of Research Kristiana Wrixon reflects on the results of this years Pay and Equalities Survey

Polite dinner table etiquette dictates that conversation should be kept ‘light’ and that discussion about money and politics should be avoided; thankfully I have never felt beholden to the expectation of social norms so the first thing out of my mouth during a recent dinner with friends was the results of ACEVO’s 2017 Pay and Equality Survey. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions as to whether this means you should avoid future dinner invitations from me!

The salary of charity CEOs is a vigorously contested issue so you would be forgiven for thinking that it was the ‘pay’ part of the ‘Pay and Equality’ survey that was at the forefront of my mind, but it was in-fact the results from the equality section that I wanted to discuss.

As a woman working in the sector and an unapologetically vocal feminist I was immensely proud of the fact that, for the first time in a sector where 66% of the workforce are women, female CEOs outnumbered males; 58% – 40% (2% preferred not to say). I have worked with and learned from a number of remarkably talented female managers during my time in the voluntary sector, a trend that is sure to continue when Vicky Browning takes up post at ACEVO next week.

But the figure that provoked the most discussion between me and my friends was that only 3% of respondents to this survey identified as being from a BAME background. Why is this and how do we change it?

The first thing that I want to do is listen. I recognise that I do not have the knowledge or experience to answer the questions I just posed. It is crucial that the voices of BAME individuals within the sector are heard and that we understand the barriers they have encountered. When barriers are identified I want to work with our membership to help break them down.

Whilst I acknowledge that I don’t have the answers, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing I can do now. I can call-out these figures, I can say they are not good enough and I can demand change.

Of course race is not the only area in which there is under-representation at CEO level. The survey also revealed the need for greater diversity in terms of disability and sexual orientation. And, despite the fact that great strides have been made towards gender equality, our research still finds that there is a sizeable gender pay gap.

But we cannot let ourselves be daunted by the scale of the challenge. We need to be talking about equality and diversity now. Not only because we do our beneficiaries a disservice when we do not reflect them (and what better reason is there than this?), but also because there is evidence to say that diverse businesses outperform industry norms. There is no reason to think that the same will not be true when it comes to charities.

I hope the conversations that I have over the next few months will involve bold and creative thinking. There are excellent initiatives from the worlds of sport, business and the public sector which we cannot be afraid to discuss. In a starter-for-ten ACEVO’s interim CEO Asheem Singh said:

“Consideration should be given now to radical new ideas, such as an adaptation of the ‘Rooney Rule’, as applied to head coaches in the American National Football League, which guarantees charities will interview at least one minority ethnic candidate for a vacant CEO position.”

It is time to be innovative, radical and unafraid; all the qualities that the charity sector is best known for. To do otherwise would be letting down not only ourselves, but our beneficiaries. So for the time-being my dinner table conversations will remain decidedly un-polite and I hope yours will too.

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