Slow progress on diversity risks funding cuts, warns Arts Council

The grant-maker's latest diversity report reveals a disappointing picture among arts organisations, says Arts Council chair Nicholas Serota

The arts sector has made slow progress on diversity and organisations that fail to make significant headway in this area risk having their funding cut, Arts Council England has warned.

In its annual diversity report, which is in its fifth year, the grant-maker found that the representation of disabled people and those with black and minority ethnic backgrounds was considerably lower among art organisations than the average across the working-age population.

It says that 11 per cent of people working in organisations funded by the Arts Council were non-white, compared with 16 per cent of the working-age population, and just 6 per cent of the sector’s workforce was disabled, compared with 21 per cent of the broader workforce.

The figures, which relate to 2018/19, came from the 828 organisations that form part of the Arts Council’s national portfolio of funded organisations in the four-year period until 2022.

The cohort that the figures come from is slightly different from that for last year’s report, which concluded that funded organisations were “treading water” on diversity despite some improvements.

The latest data shows that the proportion of non-white chief executives was 10 per cent, with only 9 per cent identifying as disabled.

Fifty-two per cent of the funded organisations had female chief executives, although only 40 per cent of chairs were female.

Dance organisations had the highest percentage of BAME employees, with 18 per cent of the combined workforce, but the lowest proportion of disabled workers, at 3 per cent.

Museums had the highest proportion of female workers, on 57 per cent, with music organisations the lowest at 37 per cent.

Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council, said the latest report revealed a disappointing picture.

He said a key tenet of the organisation’s new 10-year strategy was that the council and the organisations it funds should be representative of society.

“Organisations that receive regular investment from ACE will need to set themselves stretching targets for representation in governance, leadership, workforce, participants and audiences,” he said.

“Failure to meet these targets will have an impact on future funding.”

He said progress had been made, but the sector must “now all act with greater determination to remove the persistent inequalities in our boards, our workforce and our audiences that are holding back opportunity and achievement”.

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