A third of the largest charities have no non-white people on their senior leadership teams or boards, new research shows.
A study published today by the recruitment company Green Park found that 34 of the 100 largest UK charities by annual turnover had all-white senior leadership teams, defined as being part of a charity’s executive leadership team or board.
The study, which used a sophisticated classification system to assess the ethnic background of people holding more than 1,800 positions at the top 100 charities, found that only 8.1 per cent of senior positions were held by people from ethnic minorities.
The figure fell to 6.2 per cent when narrowed down to include only the top three positions of chair, chief executive or chief finance officer.
The study says 13 per cent of people in the UK belong to ethnic minority groups.
It says that animal charities had the lowest level of ethno-cultural diversity in the sample studied, with only 2 per cent of senior leaders coming from ethnic-minority backgrounds.
Researchers used a software system that took the names of people in senior positions at the top 100 charities, using information drawn from sources including annual accounts, Charity Commission listings and networking websites, and predicted their ethnic background.
Developers say the system, which draws on a database of 1.2 billion records, has accuracy levels of more than 95 per cent.
The report also says that women occupied only 41 per cent of leadership positions among the top 100 charities, despite representing 51 per cent of the UK’s working-age population.
This was, however, significantly better than among FTSE 100 companies, where only 24.3 per cent of senior positions were held by women.
Women made up 46.3 per cent of executive leadership team members among the top 100 charities, researchers found, but only made up 27.5 per cent in the highest three roles of chair, chief executive and chief finance officer.
And less than a quarter – 23 per cent – of chairs of the top 100 charities were found to be female. The figure for top-100 chief executives was only slightly less bad at 27 per cent.
Writing in the report, Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of the health and social care charity Turning Point, says it has become harder for under-represented groups to enter management positions in charities and accuses some headhunters of "wilful ignorance" in this area.
The sector sees itself as outside the pressure on commercial business to be more representative at board level, he says.
"The route to receiving a general leadership and business education relevant to accessing the top jobs in the sector is available to minority groups, but what isn’t are the networks that make you visible to headhunters," says Adebowale.
"Frankly, there is wilful ignorance on behalf of some headhunters – for instance, I could not imagine a black chief executive of the National Trust or Macmillan or the Red Cross, and that is an indicator of how little has changed over the years."
He says there should be a "radical rethinking of how we define talent, where we find talent, how we encourage it" and a "radical re-examination of purpose".
Adebowale says: "We have to look for difference rather than for similarity. The cultural norms of many of the trusts and organisations in the sector need to accept that we are not living in the 1980s and that it is 2018."