Adeela Warley: Awards highlight the diversity issue in the sector

While it is good to celebrate achievement, more is required to improve our inclusivity

Adeela Warley
Adeela Warley

The awards season brings the Man Booker, Turner and numerous Nobel prizes. Expect derision for decisions, overnight success as the public asks "who?" and media ridicule of the latest "art".

Away from all of that, it is still good to celebrate the best and get to know their back stories.

Awards also throw a spotlight on diversity. When Donna Strickland won the 2018 Nobel prize for physics, she was nonplussed by the focus on her gender, saying: "I thought the big story would be the science."

But given that she was the first woman to win the prize in 55 years, it’s not that surprising.

The charity sector rightly recognises its achievers and rising stars, and I’ve recently judged awards for both comms and young fundraisers. It’s been both life-affirming and an experience that highlights the challenges facing the sector – for instance, the lack of diversity in our nominations pool.

It’s right that we invest in the skills of the next generation, and there is much to be celebrated right now from brave trustees and entrepreneurial chief executives to ground-breaking digital teams and selfless volunteers.

Their achievements are proof positive that charities are "holding themselves to the highest standards of behaviour", as exhorted to do by Charity Commission chair Baroness Stowell.

But if the awards we give reflect the sector, the lack of diversity points to a lack of opportunity, a failure to create a welcoming environment and positive career choice and, perhaps, unconscious bias.

Charities too need to work hard to transform the workplace so that in future the winner’s story will focus on their outstanding skills and impact.

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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