We are 'treading water' on diversity, says Arts Council England

In a new report, the arts body says the organisations it funds have made some improvements, but there is still much work to do

The report
The report

Arts Council England and the organisations it funds are still "treading water" on diversity despite some improvements, according to a new report.

The annual report, Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case, published by Arts Council England today, examines the make-up of the workforce of the national portfolio organisations and major partner museums it funds.

The report will be the last of the annual studies to look at the cohort of organisations funded through the Arts Council’s 2015 to 2018 funding round.

Disabled people were the least well represented across arts bodies, the report says. "Figures for national portfolio organisations and major partner museums continue to be significantly lower than the 20 per cent of working-age adults in the UK who identify as having a work-limiting disability," it says.

The proportion of disabled workers in national portfolio organisations increased by one percentage point to 5 per cent since the same survey last year. At major partner museums it remained at 4 per cent.

Some progress was made on improving black and minority ethnic representation at NPOs, the report says.

Between 2015 and 2018, the percentage increased from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, though this was still lower than the 16 per cent of the working-age population that came from BME backgrounds, says the report.

By contrast, MPMs reported that only 5 per cent of its staff were from BME backgrounds, which the report describes as "a long-standing issue which urgently needs addressing".

The representation of women in senior roles improved, the report says: more than half of the organisations in the portfolio were led by female chief executives and the proportion of female artistic directors increased from 35 per cent to 46 per cent between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

But the report says there was only a marginal increase in the proportion of female chairs, from 35 per cent to 37 per cent.

Representation of people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual was at 4 per cent of the NPO workforce and 2 per cent of the MPM workforce, reflecting the 2 per cent of people in the working-age population who identify in this way.

Nicholas Serota, the chair of Arts Council England, said: "The data from our annual diversity report shows where we are on the journey to become better representative of society. There has been progress in some areas; in others we see little momentum.

"We must be more focused in our approach to the issues and from next year we will be reporting in greater detail, looking at diversity in the context of the funding organisations receive as well as their artistic disciplines."

The new portfolio of funded organisations, which opened last year, will run until 2022. The Arts Council said in a statement that it "includes more diverse-led organisations than ever before".

But it said it accepted that there was much work to do before the organisations the council funded reflected the diversity of contemporary society.

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