An Arts Council England toolkit offers advice on widening recruitment processes and improving data collection, and includes research findings about barriers to entry in the cultural sector.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Split across six themes, the Culture Change Toolkit contains information about current obstacles to diversity and practical steps that could be taken to improve access. These include offering the full national minimum wage to interns, advertising all job opportunities online, considering blind recruitment, and using diverse interview panels.

Published by Arts Council England (ACE), the guides also offer best practice case studies from organisations that have had success in diversifying some aspects of their day-to-day activity, such as Arts Emergency’s attempts to address the ‘old boys network’ through its mentoring scheme, and London Theatre Consortium fellowships in collaboration with MOBO for mid-career leaders from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The main themes covered in the guides are:

Finding and growing diverse talent, including support on developing meaningful internship, apprenticeship and work experience opportunities

Recruiting diverse talent and removing bias from shortlisting and the selection process

Supporting diverse talent by creating a workplace where people feel valued and encouraged to thrive

Developing diverse leadership using a proportionate approach taking into account the size of the organisation

Creating diverse boards to address decision-making ‘groupthink’.

Data collection

As well as providing guides to improving practice, the toolkit offers advice on collecting and monitoring diversity data, which ACE says is essential to show activities are achieving intended outcomes.

Collecting robust diversity data has been a particular challenge for the funder. Last year’s National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) diversity data report revealed serious concerns about the validity of the collected data, given high proportions of undisclosed responses about the disability status, ethnicity and gender of senior employees.

Speaking at the time, ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley issued a firm statement saying he was “extremely disappointed” by the proportion of respondents choosing not to reveal information. Over 30% of responses about the ethnicity, disability and gender of artistic directors were ‘prefer not to say’.

ACE stresses that including a ‘prefer not to say’ option in diversity data collection is a legal obligation, but has included a section titled “what to do if people are not comfortable sharing their information” in one of the new guides.

This advises organisations to tell people why submitting the information is necessary, to store it securely, and to not report information that would compromise the identity of an individual.

Author: Christy Romer