We must celebrate diversity in our sector to drive inclusion

The charity sector prides itself on its commitment to supporting minorities and those who are vulnerable.

Despite the sector’s crucial work in tackling inequalities at home and overseas, the UK charity workforce still faces challenges in diversity, inclusion and unequal pay.

At Bond, we’ve seen the amazing work our members do to tackle exclusion in terms of gender, race, age, disability and sexuality. And yet, when we look at our own sector’s workforce, it’s clear that there’s a lot more we need to do to nurture diversity and achieve real change.

How diverse is our sector?

Recent research by several organisations has shone a light on the imbalances in the UK charity sector.

In a sector that is roughly two thirds female, Third Sector found that only 32% of charity CEOs were women. Men also outnumber women by two to one on charities’ boards, according to government-commissioned research. In April, Devex revealed a gender pay gap of 12.6% in average hourly pay in favour of men across 17 large international NGOs (larger than 250 employees).

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This picture becomes even more problematic when we consider race. ACEVO’s Pay and Equalities Survey found that only 3% of charity chief executives were from BAME backgrounds, a percentage that has fallen over the last ten years. Third Sector’s research, involving the 50 largest fundraising charities at the time, found that only 12% of chief executives, 6% of senior managers and 8% of trustees were non-white.

Only 9% of the sector is non-white, compared to 12% of the private sector and 11% of the public sector, according to the recent UK Civil Society Almanac. Charity Job’s survey found that 54% of BAME candidates said they’d experienced discrimination on account of their race or ethnicity. The figures rose even more for women who are black and over 50.

When looking at sexuality, it’s notable that there are only 25 charities on Stonewall’s Diversity Champion Index of 750 organisations, three of which are international NGOs.

Strength in diversity

Our sector talks of intersectionality and “leaving no one behind”, but are we doing enough to reflect these principles in our own workforces? If we want to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, we need to reflect the world around us within our own organisations. We need to lead the way in inclusion, diversity and equality.

A workforce comprised of different people brings a diversity of perspectives, experiences and ideas. Charities and their boards need to break out of their (white, older, male) echo chambers if they want to open themselves up to new possibilities and thinking. With 92% of charity trustees being white and older, our sector runs the risk of what Umberto Ucci calls “group think”.

Some NGOs are already leading the way in diversity. Youth charity Restless Development has truly put young people at their core by appointing young board members. Bond Governance Award-winner ActionAid implemented a strategy that deliberately places feminist leadership values across its organisation.

If we’re serious about inclusion and equality, we need to commit to diversity at all levels of our organisations. We can’t shy away from conversations about gender, race, sexuality, age and disability. Organisations need to shift into an inclusive mindset and invest in diversifying their workforces. Everyone needs to drive this agenda to effect real change.

NGOs that ignore the root cause of their lack of diversity and equality are reducing their potential to be creative in their missions and authentic to their purposes. They risk being left behind.

The sector has made progress on diversity, but the pace of change is too slow. At Bond, we want to highlight the great work already done in inclusion. At a time when NGOs’ organisational cultures are under scrutiny, we want to encourage more NGOs to tackle this challenge head on and see it as an opportunity for new thinking in their work. That’s why we launched the Bond Diversity Award.

Are you championing inclusion and equality?

We want to celebrate organisations that are actively seeking to redress gender, race, sexuality, age and disability imbalances by employing and developing a diverse, inclusive workforce.

We want to hear from organisations that are putting strategies and initiatives in place that champion diversity and equality. If you can show true excellence in inclusive employment within your organisation, then submit your entry for the Diversity Award by 5pm on Friday 28 September 2018.

The Bond International Development Awards celebrate international NGOs’ work across eight categories, including advocacy, fundraising, innovation and corporate partnerships.