Diversity shortcomings underlined by Arts Council England report

Serota calls on sector to improve inclusivity of workforces
Rob Picheta
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Cultural organisations must improve the diversity of their workforces, Arts Council England (ACE) chairman Nicholas Serota has said, as the organisation’s annual diversity report finds that people from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background, women and disabled people are under-represented in museums and arts organisations.

The report was released ahead of ACE’s annual diversity event in Nottingham today, where Serota gave the keynote speech. It highlights a number of employment inequalities in Major Partner Museums (MPMs) and National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), as well as in the arts council itself.

Just 4% of staff at MPMs and 11% of staff at NPOs are from a BME background, compared to 16% of the working-age population.

Serota said: “I want the arts to be an inclusive world; a building open to all. Not an exclusive club. Our mission to deliver on diversity is doubly vital.”

The report also found significant gender inequalities in managerial and director positions, with women making up 38% of board members at MPMs despite comprising over 60% of all staff.

At ACE itself, just 46% of director roles are held by women despite the council’s overall workforce being two-thirds female.

And just 4% of staff at NPOs and MPMs, and 6% of ACE staff, identify as disabled, compared to 20% of the working age population.

A number of organisations did not provide data for the report, despite ACE chief executive Darren Henley threatening the funding of such organisations at last year’s diversity event. Henley said at the time that arts council “will have to look at the funding conditions of those that do not comply”.

ACE said that it had no data on the ethnicity of 31% of the NPO workforce and 36% of the MPM workforce. Organisations that did not provide any ethnicity data included the Black Country Living Museum and the University of Oxford.

Among those that did provide data, the Design Museum in London, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, University of Cambridge Museums, and York Museums Trust all said that less than 5% of their staff are BME.

Leeds Museums and Galleries, which manages nine institutions in the city, reported a 9% BME workforce, while Bristol’s Museums, Galleries & Archives found that 6% of its employees are BME.

In his speech, Serota called on all ACE-funded organisations to provide full and accurate diversity data. He said: “We need you all on board, if we are to make a compelling case for funding at a time when the competition for resources is fierce.”

He also looked to the future, saying: “The sector is moving forward. Those organisations that aren’t prepared to change will be left behind.”

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