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Research reveals 29% of high-income charity boards are all white 

16 Mar 2023 News

by PX Media / Adobe

The charity sector lags behind the FTSE 100 on board diversity, as 29% of charity boards are all white compared to 4% in the FTSE, according to new research.

Research conducted by Inclusive Boards looked at the UK’s largest 500 charities’ senior leadership teams and boards.

It shows that 13% of these charities’ boards have gender parity and over a tenth have an all-male senior leadership team.

The research found 51% of charities do not have a single minority ethnic woman on their board and despite being the most diverse region in the UK, six out of the top 10 highest income boards with no minority ethnic representation are based in London.

It reveals the diversity of trustees at the top 10 charities. For example, it shows Cancer Research UK has 14 trustees, seven are male and seven are female, while 13 are white and one trustee is minority ethnic.

Canal & River Trust, the Salvation Army and The Archbishop's Council are amongst those with all white boards.

The report follows Inclusive Boards’ 2018 publication, and shows four years on that more women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds now sit on the UK's largest charity boards – though they are still lagging behind other sectors.
Inclusive Boards found that the charity sector is performing better than the FTSE on gender, with 73% of the UK's top 500 charities having at least a third female board members compared to 44% of FTSE 100 companies. 

However, the Parker Review released this week, which monitors the ethnic diversity of the FTSE 100 and 250, showed an increased gap between charities and FTSE companies. 

Leadership teams

The gender gap is narrower at the senior leadership team level - 55% of senior leaders are male and the remaining 45% are female.

Across the senior leadership teams Inclusive Boards identified 301 (9.1%) of individuals from a minority ethnic background, out of whom 134 are female.

There has been a 17% reduction in the number of all white senior leadership teams, however this is still the case at 62% of charities.

Charities with all white executive teams include Cancer Research UK, Nuffield Health, Wellcome, The National Trust and CAF.

‘Progress has been made but from a low base’

Samuel Kasumu, co-founder of Inclusive Boards said the findings show there is still a long way to go for the UK’s largest charities to become more representative of the people they serve and employ. 

He said: “As a matter of social responsibility and efficacy, there has never been a more important time for the UK charity sector to open its doors to people from all backgrounds.” 

Inclusive Boards are calling for the Charity Commission to do more to encourage good governance practices including term limits and open recruitment for senior roles. 
Javed Khan, former chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “This report is vital reading for leaders across the charity sector.  It shows progress has been made but from a low base. All charities talk up their commitment to 'inclusion', but this data reminds us that we have a long way to travel before that core value is consistently embraced.”

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