Equal opportunities practices in the public and voluntary sectors in the past 20 years have been "a complete failure", according to Krishna Sarda, chief executive of the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations.
He told a Third Sector human resources seminar last week that the proportion of women and minority ethnic people working for large charities and public-sector organisations had not changed significantly over that period.
Sarda said the problem was that chief executives were only held accountable for the application of a recruitment process and not for its outcome.
The result was a "tick-box mentality" where equality policies became a defence mechanism for objectives which had not been achieved.
The seminar was the first in a series on human resources issues in charities and the voluntary sector organised by Third Sector and the recruitment consultancy People Media and held at Imperial College, London.