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Major English Arts Organizations Lack Diversity in Leadership, Report Reveals

The new report finds a lack of minority members in top posts, and of workers with disabilities overall, among the staff of cultural organizations.

The percentage of employees with disabilities cultural organizations funded by Arts Council England in 2015–16
The percentage of employees with disabilities cultural organizations funded by Arts Council England in 2015–16 (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Though England’s cultural workforce has become more diverse in some respects, organizations’ leaders are disproportionately white, according to a new report from Arts Council England (ACE).

The Arts Council England logo on the door to an institution it supports (photo by Howard Lake/Flickr)
The Arts Council England logo on the door to an institution it supports (photo by Howard Lake/Flickr)

The arts funding organization’s second annual audit of the more than 680 cultural groups to which it gives annual funding — ranging from large institutions like the Museum of London to the small groups like the public art pranksters at the Bureau of Silly Ideas — shows that many have achieved a level of gender and minority diversity among their workers on a par with national percentages, but that diversity does not extend to the directors, executives, and board chairs of those organizations. The report also highlights the enduring disparity between the percentage of cultural workers who self-identify as disabled (just 4%) compared to the national average of disabled people in the workforce (19%).

ACE’s numbers suggest that the diversity of England’s workforce does not extend to leadership roles. Members of ethnic minorities make up 17% of cultural workers at organizations that receive ACE funding (compared to 15% of the general working population). But members of minorities make up only 8% of chief executives at those organizations, only 10% of artistic directors, 9% of board chairs. “For change to be real, there needs to be more diversity at the top,” ACE’s Chief Executive Darren Henley told BBC News.

The makeup of the boards of organizations funded by Arts Council England in 2015–16 (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)
The makeup of the boards of organizations funded by Arts Council England in 2015–16 (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

The report’s findings are divided into two categories according to ACE funding programs: the National Portfolio Organizations (NPO) are the more than 660 groups that receive funds annually; the Major Partner Museums (MPM) are the 21 museums, public galleries, and museum groups that get ACE funding. While there are disparities between the two groups, they align in certain categories. Both have a greater share of female employees than the English workforce at large, which is 50%. Among the NPO arts groups, female employees account for 55% of workers, and at MPM a full 62%. Both groups also skew older than the general workforce. While 32% of England’s working age population is between 20 and 34 years old, only 29% of workers at NPOs fall into that age bracket, and just 17% of employees at MPMs.

The report also includes detailed staff breakdowns of the 96 organizations with 50 or more employees that receive annual ACE funding. Thus we know, for instance, that two of the organizations — the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Cheltenham Festivals — have 100% white workforces. We also know that the most disproportionately male of the group is the English National Opera, whose staff is 61% male, while the Firstsite gallery in Colchester, Essex, has the largest share of disabled people on its workforce (12%). Among those 96 groups, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in Coalbrookdale has the oldest staff, 49% of which is 50 or older (it’s also 99% white).

The distribution of minority employees at different levels of cultural organizations funded by Arts Council England in 2015–16
The distribution of minority employees at different levels of cultural organizations funded by Arts Council England in 2015–16 (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

While ACE plans to release recommendations for how organizations can further diversify their workforces next year, Henley suggested that groups not taking steps to do so may face funding cuts. “We must be able to present an accurate picture of progress and of problems,” he told BBC News. “Inevitably, going forward, we will have to look at the funding conditions of those that do not comply.”

New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs recently undertook a similar audit of the organizations that it helps fund, revealing in a report earlier this year that their staffs are 62% white — 17% more so than the city’s population at large.

Read the full Arts Council England report, ” Equality, Diversity, and the Creative Case, 2015–16,” here.

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