BME and disabled people remain underrepresented in MPMs - Museums Association

BME and disabled people remain underrepresented in MPMs

ACE diversity report finds signs of progress in wider culture sector however
Laura Rutkowski
Black and minority ethnic (BME) and disabled people are significantly underrepresented in Major Partner Museums (MPM) across England, according to a report released by Arts Council England (ACE).  

The Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case 2015-16 report is the second annual diversity survey conducted by ACE, and was launched last week at the Power Through Diversity conference in Manchester.

The report outlined data submitted by MPMs and National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), as well as providing figures for leadership and the arts council’s own workforce.

It found that 7% of the MPM workforce is BME, compared with 15% of the average working age population.

Representation of people who identify as disabled is lower still, comprising 4% of both the MPM and NPO workforces, compared with 19% of the average working age population.

NPOs have seen an increase in BME employees, who now make up an above-average 17% of their workforce.

The research found that women comprise more than half of employees in the culture sector, with the MPM workforce 62% female, and the NPO workforce 55% female.

However, leadership data showed that the proportion of women is lower in more senior positions, with women comprising 43% of chief executives, 28% of artistic directors, and 32% of chairs among the organisations surveyed.

The leadership data also revealed that 8% of chief executives, 10% of artistic directors, and 9% of chairs are BME, with 5% of each of those positions identifying as disabled.

The arts council’s own workforce is 11% BME (18% of whom are in senior positions), 65% female and 4% self-defining as disabled.

For the first time, ACE collected and published data on the socio-economic profile of audiences, finding that the majority of people who participate in arts and culture come from the most privileged parts of society.

Speaking at the event, the arts council’s chief executive Darren Henley said: “Our challenge is to remain focused on that mission – to bring great art and culture to everyone. From cultural education, through apprenticeships, training and skills, to higher education, to leadership opportunities.

“We need to see where the barriers and gaps are, and how we can overcome these. Any young person, whether disabled or not, black, Asian or working-class white, urban or rural, should feel that if they've got the talent and the commitment, we’re offering them a roadmap to success.”

Meanwhile, diversity in the museum sector was also the focus of the Increasing Diversity in the Museum Workforce conference, which took place at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery last week.

Jess Turtle, the project coordinator of the Transformers career development programme at the Museums Association (MA), was one of the guest speakers.

She said that the conference highlighted some great examples of how traineeships are encouraging diversity in the workforce, such as Norfolk Museums Service's trainee programme, the Teaching Museum, which does not require trainees to have prior museum experience or qualifications to apply.
“Work such as this is making an impact through refreshing the workforce, bringing fresh perspectives, and opening up a career in museums to people who may not otherwise consider it,” Turtle said.
The MA’s report, Valuing Diversity: The Case for Inclusive Museums, was published earlier this year. Findings showed that institutional discrimination in the UK museum sector is negatively impacting workforce diversity, causing people to leave the sector at mid-career level.
Turtle said: “We need better and more nuanced understandings of what diversity is. We need to think more about how power operates in our organisations and the sector and we need to create inclusive organisations as well as carry out diversity initiatives.”

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