Our most recent Salary and Organisational Culture Report found that the charity sector doesn’t reflect the working age population.
Multiple barriers make the charity sector an uneven playing field when it comes to building and sustaining a career. The data revealed some particularly damning evidence about difficulties faced by people of colour in the third sector. It was found that not only does the sector have a problem in recruitment of people of colour, but also of retaining the talent organisations do acquire.
We spoke to a range of people of colour throughout the sector who have spoken on diversity issues in the past, getting their response to the data, how it speaks to their experience and what changes they want to see the sector committing to.
“As a black woman, these are not just abstract statistics. In fact, I know people who are experiencing this in our sector right now. And that is heart-breaking, because I know the reality that these stats represent. The numerous micro-aggressions, challenges, insults and barriers that people of colour in the sector face on a daily basis – just for trying to do a great job on causes they care about. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the 93% of charity communicators who are white to act as allies for their BME colleagues. It’s time for leaders to actively listen to and address the unique challenges that are driving people of colour out of the sector. It’s time for organisations to empower BME staff to shine and thrive, instead of denying or defending the systems and processes that reinforce racism. It’s not enough to do good work, if we’re failing to live our values and represent the multicultural societies we seek to serve. The sector needs to do better.”
– Collette Philip, founder, Brand by Me
“The sector is facing a double whammy. Not only is it harder for charities to attract people of colour, but they are more likely to be unhappy in their roles, and to look outside of the sector for their next job. We cannot afford to lose talent like this. I would like to see charity leaders setting public targets for improving diversity, using blind recruitment processes and ensuring that job descriptions make diversity a priority. And above all, they need to ask people of colour how they can support them. If our charities welcome everyone then they will flourish.”
– Zoe Amar, founder and director, Zoe Amar Digital
“It’s no secret that the charity sector is struggling to become more representative of society. On the outside that manifests itself through trends such as #CharitySoWhite and using rainbow flags in marketing, but cutting ties with LGBT+ activists at the drop of the hat.
On the inside things are much darker, and it’s no surprise that people of colour are more likely to be unhappy in their role – however the figure is unacceptably high. Dramatic changes are needed if the third sector is to stay relevant and truly benefit from the dividend that can be found in difference.”
– Asad Dhunna, founder and director, The Unmistakeables
“The charity sector needs to start actually moving to rectify its diversity problem. True diversity can feel like an unassailable challenge, but it can be broken down into actionable steps – the first one is admitting that we do engage, both openly and subconsciously, in racist behaviour.
We need to hire and promote on merit rather than cultural fit or work history; blind procedures with diverse decision-making panels can help level the playing field. Investing in HR procedures will allow staff to report discriminatory behaviour safely and anonymously. Leaders need to consult with paid experts to create action plans and hold their teams accountable.”
– Kris Tan, digital manager, Platypus Digital
“I’ve witnessed lots of black and brown people like myself leaving the charity sector. There are many reasons for this but I was partly motivated by the treatment of people of colour. The sector is currently geared to progress the careers of privileged people with an elite education. This has to stop if we want to see a charity sector that authentically reflects the communities it aims to serve.
If the sector wants to change, it has to start listening to the experience of people of colour. I’m tired of the empty calls for more research and a failure to commit. I’m also bored of the defensive stubbornness of those people who could actually be part of a positive change. Without a shift in attitude, the sector will remain stuck and unable to progress into the present.”
– Susheila Juggapah, former charity digital professional
“The outcomes of this research continue to evidence and highlight the issues of institutional racism in the sector that #CharitySoWhite is working to tackle. As evidence and call for actions mount, leadership can no longer deny or ignore these issues. Leadership teams should reflect deeply on the results and use them as a catalyst for candid conversation and critical reflection on these pressing issues. They can begin by using the questions outlined here. “
– #CharitySoWhite organising committee
As Asad Dhunna pointed out this year at Cannes Lions, talk must beget action. A commitment to progression towards justice and equality becomes hollow when it does not exist between our four walls. Sector-wide senior leadership need to commit to organisational change, and ensure this filters down to the minutiae of day-to-day working lives.
Here are some of the tips outlined by our contributors:
- Ask people of colour how best to support them
- Commit to action to empower people of colour
- Create action plans to hold teams accountable
- Set public targets for diversity
- Invest in HR procedures so staff can report discrimination safely and anonymously
- Make diversity a priority in job descriptions and decision-making teams
- Acknowledge where power lies in our organisations and actively address power imbalances
What is currently happening?
Change is happening at both the micro and macro levels. Here are some of the ways the sector is responding:
- Collette said of creating a panel of senior female Comms professionals, especially women of colour:
“I made this a priority and frankly it wasn’t hard. Combining the strength of CharityComms network with my own, we found a breadth of experts who each brought a different perspective on the challenges and opportunities of building a culture of storytelling within an organisation.”
- The Unmistakeables is “assembling a global working group to help develop ideas that go beyond diversity panels and talks next year. “
- Save the Children UK has used hard-hitting diversity data to push for change through training, role-modelling, focused recruitment drives and recruitment specialists
- ACEVO has stated that by 2024. 40 per cent of its staff and trustees will be people of colour and 20 per cent will have disabilities
- The IoF has produced a manifesto for change, to address issues of inequality in fundraising.
- Queen Mary University of London has launched the first social change undergraduate degree, with 10 of the 13 successful candidates being people of colour. While splitting their time studying with employment with partner charities, they’ll receive a competitive wage and zero student debt.
Individuals and organisations can take a range of steps right now to be part of the change:
Though change has been long in coming, it seems progress is being made. We’d love to hear your thoughts. What is your organisation doing? What would you like to see more of throughout the sector? Let us know.
Read the full Salary and Organisational Culture Report here.