Ninety per cent of aid sector staff do not think their organisation is committed to diversity, research indicates

Nine out of 10 aid sector staff do not think their organisation is committed to diversity, equality and inclusion, new research indicates 

A new report published by the umbrella body Bond asked 150 employees across a number of non-governmental organisations, in the UK and overseas, what enabled and prevented people of colour from getting jobs in the sector. 

It also examined their experiences of organisational cultures and the challenges they faced in progressing into leadership positions.

Researchers found that nearly 90 per cent of people surveyed felt their organisations were not truly committed to diversity, equality and inclusion.  

One female respondent said that “a lot of unwritten rules in the sector are racialised, and it is really difficult to point that out without being seen as difficult or a troublemaker”.

The report found that 68 per cent of respondents had experienced an incident of racism in the workplace or had supported someone else who had experienced a racist incident in the past year .

Researchers found that the most-reported form of racism was that perpetrated by line managers.

“[I’ve had] a mix of microaggressions, bullying and outright racism and xenophobia [from my managers] over the years. One manager had a whole ‘white saviour’ complex that was patronising to me and didn’t help my progression as she thought it would be too much for me,” said one interviewee. 

In addition, the report revealed that 85 per cent of respondents felt that, as a person of colour, getting promoted in the sector was not accessible to them, with promotion being seen as a reward only accessible to people from non-minoritised groups.  

“If you’re not white and Oxbridge-educated you’re not ‘relatable’,” said one respondent, while another blamed cronyism. “Jobs continue to be given to ‘friends’ of those with power. If you know someone, you’re far more likely to get in.”

Lena Bheeroo, lead author of the report and engagement and equity manager at Bond, said: “This report comes a year after the sector was invited to hold a mirror up to itself and look at the levels of representation we have in positions of power. Our report provides evidence for what we have known for many years now. 

“Across the UK NGO sector, people of colour are underrepresented in senior roles, and that they are facing multiple barriers to career progression, with the odds stacked against them. 

“For a sector that is working to champion people’s rights, fairness and equality, this is a big problem. Organisations must not shy away from speaking about racism and anti-blackness.

“They have the responsibility to move beyond diversity in just HR terms, towards making better staffing decisions that better represent the countries and contexts that we work in.” 

Bheeroo said that chief executives and board members should commit to sponsoring people of colour by investing time with them, opening doors, bringing them into existing networks and championing them publicly.

“On an individual level, people need to reflect on their levels of privilege and power and their position within the sector, so that they can start to take steps to disrupt the dynamics at play," she said. 


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