Charity boards less diverse than UK's biggest companies, says report

Research by Inclusive Boards finds that 6.6 per cent of trustees at the top 500 charities by income are from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 8.2 per cent at FTSE 100 companies

The report
The report

Ethnic diversity on the boards of the largest charities is worse than at the UK’s biggest companies, new research shows.

Research by the consultancy Inclusive Boards, published today, shows that 6.6 per cent of trustees at the top 500 charities by income are from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 8.2 per cent among FTSE 100 companies.

A report on the findings says the pace of change in making leadership of the top charities more diverse has not been quick enough.

Although there has been an increase in the number of trustees from ethnic minority backgrounds since its last study 18 months ago, the report says, it has gone up by only 0.3 percentage points.

The report says there has been a five percentage-point increase in the number of all-white boards, to 62 per cent, since the last study, and nearly 80 per cent of the senior leadership teams include no one from an ethnic minority background.

There are 6,338 trustees on the boards of the top 500 charities by income and the average charity has 12.7 trustees, the report says, and 1,961 people are employed in senior leadership positions among those charities.

Among trustees, only 6.6 per cent are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Only 16 per cent of charities have BAME people on their leadership teams, and just 5 per cent have two or more.

At the charities studied, 66 per cent of trustees are male and 34 per cent female. Among senior leaders, 57 per cent identify as male and 43 per cent as female, even though the voluntary sector workforce is 65 per cent female.

The ethnicity gap is wider at senior leadership level, the report says: only 94, or 5.3 per cent, of leaders were identified as being from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The report says women from ethnic minority backgrounds face a "double barrier" to being included on charity boards and senior leadership teams.

Only 2.9 per cent of trustees and 2.5 per cent of senior leaders within the sector are women of colour, the report says.

"Women of colour seemed to face a double barrier when seeking to take on prominent roles in charities, making them the least likely group to be on a board and/or senior leadership team," the report says.

Seventy-five per cent of the boars analysed do not have any BAME women trustees and only 24 boards have more than one.

There are only 40 ethnic minority female senior leaders, representing 2.25 per cent of all those identified.

The report says: "We are recommending that all stakeholders play their part in supporting the sector."

It says the Charity Commission needs to ensure that large charities improve or explain in their annual reports why diversity is lacking on their boards, and funders should allocate resources for charities they support to improve their governance, including diversity.

The report also calls on the Office for Civil Society to do more to promote the benefits of diversity to the sector, and charities themselves to take more responsibility by committing to having internal diversity action plans that should offer short, medium, and long-term strategies for improving diversity.

Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said the findings were "sobering evidence" of the work needed to make the charity sector truly diverse and inclusive.

Samuel Kasumu, managing director of Inclusive Boards, said: "The charity sector plays a significant role in supporting some of the most marginalised communities and important causes in our country. It is vitally important that its leadership reflects those that they serve because this diversity of thought is essential for good governance overall."

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