Report reveals charities’ lack of ethnic and gender diversity

The Royal Shakespeare Company was one of the top 10 charity employers for diversity at senior level, said Green Park
Alastair Muir/REX/Shutterstock

Leadership positions in top UK charities are overwhelmingly white and male, according to research by executive search company Green Park.

More than a third (34%) of the largest 100 charities by turnover have no ethnic diversity in their leadership team, its Third Sector Leadership 2,000 report has revealed.

Only 8.1% of senior positions in these charities are held by ethnic minority leaders, and at chair, CEO or CFO level, this drops to 6.2%.

People of Chinese and other Asian backgrounds are virtually non-existent among charity leaders, comprising just 0.3% of senior leaders.

Gender diversity is not much better. Women occupy just over a quarter (27.5%) of chair, CEO and CFO positions, and 41% of senior positions overall, according to Green Park. More than three-quarters (77%) of chair positions are occupied by men.

Ethnic minority females were nearly a third less likely than ethnic minority men to hold a senior position in one of the top 100 charities. Men from ethnic minorities were also five times more likely to be appointed CEO, and four times more likely to be appointed CFO, than ethnic minority women.

Animal charities displayed the lowest levels of diversity, according to Green Park’s research, with just under 2% of leadership positions held by individuals from ethnic minorities. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and faith-based charities were most likely to employ ethnic minority leaders in their most senior positions (16% and 11% respectively).

The top charities for employing women in senior roles were in health, mental health and disability, and NGOs.

Green Park has also produced a diversity index ranking the comparative diversity of the largest 100 charities by revenue. The top 10 charities in the index were:

  1. VSO (international development charity)
  2. Islamic Relief Worldwide (humanitarian and development organisation)
  3. Marie Stopes International (leading provider of sexual and reproductive health services in the UK)
  4. ActionAid (campaigner for rights of women and girls)
  5. Girls’ Day School Trust (network of independent girls’ schools)
  6. Plan International UK (children’s charity)
  7. Children’s Investment Fund Foundation UK (focuses specifically on improving children’s lives.)
  8. Nursing and Midwifery Council (regulate nurses and midwives in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  9. Royal Shakespeare Company (major British theatre company)
  10. National Autistic Society (leading UK charity for autistic people)

Kai Adams, a partner in Green Park’s charities and social enterprise practice, said that the high profile of these charities meant they had “an even greater degree of responsibility to be representative”.

He added: “Whether diversity is inherited or acquired, visible or cognitive, we believe that no organisation can sustainably deal with change without increasing the agility, skills and customer orientation within its leadership team.  

“We also know there is a clear correlation between those qualities, the diversity of the team, and its ability to protect the future relevance and impact of the organisation.

“We firmly believe that for the charities represented in this report to thrive and drive positive social change, it will be vital to widen the gate without lowering the bar.”

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