ACE-funded organisations must tackle 'disappointing' diversity levels

ACE-funded organisations must tackle 'disappointing' diversity levels

The number of BAME and disabled employees at Arts Council England-funded organisations is "disappointingly" low, a new report shows – in light of which organisations receiving regular investment have been tasked with "stretching targets for representation" if they don't want to lose out in future.

Entitled Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case, the document features data from 2018 to 2019 and is the first of ACE’s annual diversity reports to cover its new 2018–2022 portfolio, which includes libraries and museums.

Across the national portfolio, only 11% of the workforce are BAME – well below ONS demographics for the working age national population of 16%. The percentage of artistic directors and chairs are also both 11%. Overall board representation is slightly higher at 15%, while the figure for chief executives is slightly lower at 10%. 

For literature organisations, 42% of staff are white British, compared to 5% who identified as "white other" and 14% as BAME. A further 4% preferred not to say and the rest were at organisations that did not provide such data. In libraries, 26% were white, 6% white other but just 1% BAME.

ACE described disabled representation as "concerning", with only 6% of people across the workforce identifying as disabled, compared with 21% of the working age population. In libraries the figure was just 1% while the figure was also 6% for literature organisations.

The picture for gender was better, with 52% of ACE portfolio organisations run by female chief executives and 45% of artistic directors identifying as female. However, at board level just 40% of chairs are female.

At ACE itself, the total number of BAME staff went up compared to 2017-2018, from 9% to 11%. The percentage of total disabled staff increased from 6% to 7% while female staff increaed from 65% to 66% with female directors rising from 52% to 55%. 

The diversity report comes after ACE announced its new 10-year strategy last month, prioritising boosting inclusivity in the arts.

Nicholas Serota, ACE chair, said: "This year’s annual diversity report reveals a disappointing picture. A key tenet of our new strategy for 2020-2030, Let’s Create, is that the organisations we fund, and that the Arts Council itself, should be representative of society. 

"In the new strategy, organisations that receive regular investment from the Arts Council will need to set themselves stretching targets for representation in governance, leadership, workforce, participants and audiences. Failure to meet these targets will have an impact on future funding. Over the years there has been progress – and since launching the Creative Case for Diversity in 2011 much has been done by organisations to focus on the work they produce, collect and present – but we must now all act with greater determination to remove the persistent inequalities in our boards, our workforce and our audiences that are holding back opportunity and achievement in our sector."

Under the ACE structure, organisations are given a "Creative Case" rating for how well they are performing on diversity. Any organisation deemed to have "not met" ACE standards two years in a row will be ineligible to apply for the next portfolio.