Charities Must Look Within To Address Systemic and Structural Racism.

The Charitable Sector like many other sectors, suffers from systemic and structural racism.  The primary objective of charities is to help society, but can they truly do that if they do not represent the very society they are trying to help? 

Following a 13-year career as a Solicitor in high street criminal defence firms; I utilised my transferrable skills to move into the charity sector.  At one charity where I worked, race and diversity were at the forefront of our minds as a work priority.  However, I saw that in the many charities I came across, this was not necessarily the same internally.  I saw a lack of diversity in many organisations, particularly at leadership level.  I also saw inequality and discrimination in how some people were treated.  This led me to look into the research that had been conducted in the charity sector. 

An ACEVO Pay and Equalities survey in 2018 found that only 3% of charity CEO’s were from a Black or Asian minority ethnic background. 

Charity Commission report in 2017 revealed that 92% of all charity trustees are white, older, and above average income and education.  

The lack of diversity in the charity sector as a whole, is disappointing and alarming.  Charities clearly have a lot to do to improve on these statistics. 

The ACEVO Home Truths undoing Racism and delivering real Diversity in the charity sector report from 2020 revealed the experiences of over 500 charity workers from a Black or Asian minority ethnic background. 116 of these stated that direct experiences of racism had a negative impact on their desired career path. 

This is devastating to read yet not surprising and it’s clear that there must be change. 

Looking within is not the easiest thing and conversations about race and diversity are often uncomfortable, but these conversations are crucial if the sector is to change in a meaningful way. There is often a natural resistance to change, especially when it is perceived not to be in your own best interest.

Why is diversity so important? Diversity adds value to an organisation by bringing a range of talent, experiences, and viewpoints.  Diversity is more than just a token tick box exercise. It must be embedded in the very ethos of an organisation to achieve the true benefits. 

As well as looking within, charities must take positive action. The Equality Act 2010 permits certain forms of positive action and this is quite different to positive discrimination which is not legally permitted. Positive action steps include placing job adverts to target particular groups, using encouraging and welcoming wording in job adverts, and favouring candidates from an underrepresented group where two candidates are as qualified as each other. 

Another suggested way forward is for more funders of charity organisations to explore diversity in the charities they fund and this being a key factor in deciding whether to award funding.

The brutal killing of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has seen a number of charities publicly support BLM and adopt a language of anti-racism.  This is an important start, but it must be sustained and built upon. 

Here is how you can help:

  1. Ask the question of the charities you support.  Be prepared to have those difficult conversations.
  2. Support and follow organisations like and Action for Trustee Racial Diversity UK as they tackle institutional racism in the charity sector and work to increase diversity with a view to making the sector more representative. 
  3. Share job adverts with Black and Minority ethnic networks and organisations like The Society of Asian Lawyers and The Association of Muslim Lawyers. 

Change is happening but it is all too slow.  Charities must continue to look within and take consistent and positive action.  The sector will only be the better for it.  

Remy Mohamed is a member of the Society of Asian Lawyers and President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers.  Remy currently works as Grenfell Inquiry Coordination Officer at Greater London Authority.  Remy was a speaker at our Race to the Top 2 event.  

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