Diversity: Pathways to Prosperity

Published: 19 January 2015

A topic that has really taken the limelight this year is that of diversity in the workplace. Following Lord Davies review of women in senior positions, which began in 2011, the debate has snowballed. The discussion has evolved beyond that of getting more women into the boardroom to include ethnic diversity.

A recent study of the top 10,000 executives published last year - written by Phillips and Professor Richard Webber, of Kings College London – found that more than half of FTSE 100 firms had no ‘non-whites’ at Board level. Greater diversity is the order of the day and efforts are being made to ensure the Board are ‘less male, pale and stale’

This was addressed by the Government last month as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, launched a new initiative to advance Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups into senior management roles. The private sector initiative, called The 2020 Campaign, has set a target of no all-white boards amongst the FTSE 100 by 2020.

This will be of benefit to the UK economy as a more diverse workforce makes for better business according to research carried out by McKinsey.  In a recent survey named “Diversity Matters” the firm reached out to 366 organisations and thousands of executives in the UK, US, Canada and Latin America and found a statistically significant link between firms with a more diverse leadership and better financial performance. In the UK the issue of ethnic diversity is a particular focus within the Not-for-Profit sector. A recent study carried out by Third Sector on the top 50 charities (by income) found that only 12% of Chief Executives and 6% of the Senior Management Teams within these organisations are non-white. But what about the lower echelons of the workplace? In order to achieve true equality at the top surely more needs to be done to ensure a diverse mix of middle management is being bred early on.

Graham Salisbury, Head of HR at ActionAid, explains that the bar of entry into this world has been set particularly high: “We recently advertised for a relatively junior entry-level post; of the 250 applicants around 90% were educated to post-graduate level.” When you consider this in conjunction with a study commissioned by the Higher Education Authority that indicates fewer than ten graduates from Black Caribbean and Bangladeshi minority groups are making the transition to research degrees each year, it is easy to see how disparity in diversity starts early on.

Similarly, the issue arises pre-graduation within a student group looking to gain valuable and often necessary work experience. With the majority of internships being unpaid this luxury can only be afforded by those whose parents can supplement this period of unpaid work.

Kate Turner, Head of HR at Plan UK, says: “The traditional pathways into the development sector can be quite inaccessible.  Across the sector it is very often advantageous if entry level applicants have been able to volunteer.  This means that a lot of people working in the sector come from backgrounds where they have the financial means to work for free”.

It is pleasing then to discover that efforts are being made to break this mould and create new pathways into the sector for those from less fortunate backgrounds. A pilot apprenticeship scheme was launched by ActionAid UK, Christian Aid and Plan International UK at the end of last year which will see seven apprentices work across functional areas for a minimum twelve month period, supporting this experience with theoretical learning with one day a week spent at City and Islington College.

Creating these opportunities has been no easy feat. Whilst less ‘hands-on’ apprenticeships such as HR and Finance are available, very few organisations actually offer them due to a lack of demand. Keen that the seven apprentices would have the opportunity to study at the same place in order to share their experience, the three organisations have partnered with City and Islington College and each apprentice will graduate with a diploma in Business Administration.

“We have three apprentices this year and plan to continue the scheme next year.  For us, this is just the start of the process and we will continue to review our approach” - Kate Turner, Plan International.

Social Enterprise Cause4 who support non-profit organisations in achieving their strategic, fundraising and development goals, have also been looking at new ways of nurturing a diverse talent pool early on. CEO Michelle Wright says: “We believe that the charitable sector deserves the same investment in talent as are found in the private sector. As we grew our business we struggled to find senior staff that could work on sector change projects so we created our own graduate talent programme ‘the Entrepreneurship Programme’ - In 2015 we are also launching the first fundraising apprenticeships nationally in partnership with Rathbone – which we hope to roll out sector wide.”

Three months into the scheme and things are progressing well. I met with Philip who is completing an apprenticeship with ActionAid. He spoke of his experience to date: “Coming in to this apprenticeship I knew it was a fantastic opportunity to learn and develop my skillset, as well as progress as a person, I underestimated just how much. Three months into my apprenticeship, I feel like I can speak quite confidently about fundraising. I am also more aware of global issues and have higher ambition and self-confidence.”

Berwick Partners will be hosting an event at the end of April to further explore and discuss this important topic. We expect an audience of EO’s and HR Directors across the not-for-profit sector to be in attendance.

For more information please contact Siobhain Brodie or William Pringle.

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