Firstly, Board quality matters. Good Board leadership drives good results for service users, audiences and visitors. And Boards that are more diverse have been proven to be more financially effective.
However, charity Boards’ diversity statistics aren’t great.
As a campaigning organisation, Green Park has researched gender and ethno-cultural diversity within the top 100 charities. Our findings show that more than a third of major UK charities have no ethno-cultural diversity in their senior leadership team and 41% of senior positions are held by women.
Our track record in placing BAME candidates on Boards is a figure we’re extremely proud of, at 27% compared with the national average of 8%.
And while we know the average Trustee age is 54 and the average Chair is 65, available data on other vectors and perspectives such as disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic background is thin.
In Arts, at 42% in senior roles, the picture looks better for gender diversity, but BAME representation is only 9% and recent figures indicate that 39 of the top 50 charities, by income, have no BAME people in senior leadership at all.
Diversity matters in the Arts because it’s about how we understand, connect with and enlighten others Bringing a range of people into the room is vital. But we also need to make the value of diversity understood and translate it into action.
Of course, a diverse looking Board doesn’t guarantee different thinking. But candidates and funders look at websites and they make judgements. In our experience, what matters is curiosity, judgment and the ability to formulate a question on your feet. The more diversity there is the better the questions, and the better the thinking.
• Build a pipeline – take the time to have a coffee with lots of different people.
• Hold on to your mandate, test against your priorities, but interrogate your list of key experience – what is it about this experience you really need? Should the right qualities be more important?
• Think about how you include service users to keep your appointments close to your users’ needs.
• If you’re using an executive search firm, align yourself with a supplier whose values match your own.
How can you retain a diverse Board?
• Giving thought to induction and retention is vital – this is where inclusion comes in. Culture change is a vulnerable point for any organisation and needs nurturing.
• Create the culture – spend time together and build relationships.
• Make time to talk – 360 reviews, mentoring and buddy systems are important.
• Be alert to problems – if people don’t turn up or don’t say anything, don’t see this as their problem. People contribute when they feel included.
• Scrutinise yourself and your systems – is everyone getting the right support?
It was a pleasure to be a keynote speaker at the Clore Leadership Programme’s Board Diversity Day and to talk about this topic, which my colleagues at Green park and I feel so passionately about. Many thanks to all the Chairs and CEOs in the above organisations who helped us understand what really matters to arts and heritage organisations.