Mandy Johnson, the former chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition (SCC), has said she was told to stop speaking out on diversity issues, which led to “friction” with trustees.
SCC denies the allegation that the board had asked her to choose between her job and her principles, and says it is committed to championing equality issues.
Johnson has started a podcast to champion underrepresented people in the sector, called This is Not the Mandy Johnson Show, and used the first episode to discuss the reason she left SCC last year.
“I didn’t plan to leave my last job,” she said. “Whilst working there I became increasingly interested in diversity and that wasn’t a strategic priority at the time, and in January 2019 I don’t think it’s a strategic priority for them now.”
This is because other sector bodies have taken the lead on diversity issues, she said. “Part of the reason they’re not focused on it is because others are.”
“I was getting louder and louder about diversity and I think a bit of friction started to rise with the board,” she said. “The louder I became about diversity the more uncomfortable I was making my board.”
Things came to a head when Johnson criticised a charity trade publication for a photo shoot which featured only white women and asked for her quotes to be removed from the online coverage.
Johnson said the board did not support her action.
“I was told quite clearly that if I wanted to carry on in that job then I couldn’t speak about diversity any more. To me it’s just too much of an important issue for me to remain silent on,” she said.
“I felt like I had to choose whether to maintain my principles or not.”
She also spoke openly about the impact of the events on her mental health.
‘SCC is committed to championing equality and diversity’
A spokesperson for SCC said: "The Small Charities Coalition (SCC) is committed to championing equality and diversity and has been since our inception. In addition, we expect our staff, volunteers and trustees to behave with integrity and with due respect towards each other and everyone we work with.
“We are aware that the former CEO, Mandy Johnson, has made a number of allegations against the board in a podcast. However, claims made that the board required Mandy to choose between her job and her principles, are not true.
“As a member of the infrastructure bodies group on equality and diversity, SCC is committed to the agenda championed by ourselves and colleagues across the sector.
“Regarding accusations of mishandling mental health, the board recognises that these situations are always difficult. The board are always open to learning and doing more in this area.
“The board sought professional advice on how best to support Mandy but sadly did not have the opportunity to do so."