Is the charity sector suffering a 'diversity deficit’ in 2018?
As is the case with many professional institutions within the UK, the charity sector is failing to reflect the nation’s racial diversity. It should concern us all that just 5 per cent of people in senior leadership teams in top charities are from ethnic minority backgrounds. We need to continue to ask questions about what leads to this under-representation, but there is a greater need to take action that seeks to change this.
Where do you think the greatest diversity challenge lies?
One could argue that we all know and understand that social prejudices, patriarchal systems, opportunity disparities and power imbalances contribute to where we are now. And we all know and talk about where want to be, but it continues to be difficult for us to achieve this.
It is particularly worrying when gender meets ethnicity. There are few women in senior leadership positions and even fewer women of colour. Those who come in at junior levels arguably spend much longer than their counterparts in those positions before moving to more senior levels. The few who do reach these positions face another uphill battle.
Do you think your appointment at Christian Aid will help to move the sector forward?
Research shows that just 3 per cent of charity chief executives are from black and minority ethnic groups, so I’m quite aware that it’s rare to see someone who looks like me leading an organisation such as Christian Aid. This speaks to a board of trustees who are in themselves very confident of how they see the world and whose values are exhibited in the actions they take.
As the now famous saying goes: "You can’t be what you can’t see." I’m encouraged that I am in the position that I am and hope the future will be brighter as increasing numbers of BAME leaders break the glass ceiling.
What is the most important factor in helping leaders from diverse backgrounds achieve success?
The pressure to be perfect in order to overcome the prejudices that exist in others’ minds is extremely challenging, so a support system is crucial. By not embracing more diversity, the sector is missing out on a depth of different skills, worldviews, experiences and credibility.
Understanding one’s own unmerited privileges is so important and provides the humility that is needed for worthwhile conversations to happen and for breakthroughs.
Do you think your role as chief executive at Christian Aid can inspire others?
I hope that aspiring leaders from ethnic minorities will be inspired to think that such leadership roles are not out of reach. Much needs change. But I want to encourage other people of colour, particularly women, to keep pushing the doors to open. If not for ourselves, we must do it for future generations.
They should not have to fight the same battles we have. I would encourage others not to shy away from putting themselves forward. Take the step and make yourself visible. Rome was definitely not built in a day.
The richness that could be leveraged from a diverse group of people at senior levels could very well help us to meet the complex development and humanitarian challenges of our times.