Adebowale said the NCVO and Acevo should launch an investigation after the survey found that only one chief executive of the top 50 charities is non-white and only one has a disability. It also shows that charity chief executives are more likely to have been to public school and university than the population as a whole.
Adebowale said: "I think there should be a wide-ranging inquiry led by the NCVO and Acevo, because it's pretty serious. Then there should be a series of national recommendations.
"There are organisations that have never knowingly employed a black person at a senior level and never will. They'll claim it's because black people don't apply, but that's just an excuse. I think there's a danger we could end up with a kind of professional apartheid."
Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said the problem was in the make-up of trustee boards that appoint chief executives, but a cadre of black chief executives was coming through the ranks: "At our recent training, 30 per cent of participants were black chief executives."
Lai-Har Cheung of the workforce hub, based at NCVO, said charities should review whether they reflect local diversity.
- See feature, page 26.