by Kizzy Wardle
I’m not going to lie. When I first heard the news, I rolled my eyes. I have seen some really positive things recently from the Institute of Fundraising (the IOF). I love the change collective stuff and the manifesto. I’m enthused by the increasing conversation in the sector about gender imbalance in senior roles and the lack of ethnic diversity across the board. I’ve been in the sector for a long time and have had many a conversation about diversity and it feels like things might, just might, be starting to move from conversation to action. And so yes, I did sigh and roll my eyes when I found out that the one paid role whose focus is to look at diversity was filled by yet another white male.
Now, for the sake of context here are a few things I’d like you to know about me. I am a mixed-race woman and was raised in the UK. I have fairly light skin and am married to a white guy. I grew up in a very wealthy area, in a council flat. Neither of my parents have any school qualifications, but my aunt did a PHD at Oxford and my brother trained in contemporary dance. I have a four-year-old, white looking, disabled daughter and my dad is bisexual. I’m mixed race, but I’m also mixed in so many other ways having experienced a melting pot of cultures, classes and races. So, I have lived experience of some of the protected characteristics other than race. I know that diversity is not all about race and that true inclusion is, and should be, much wider than that conversation*. But having laid all that out I still can’t help but wonder about the message being sent that what we need to drive the diversity agenda is another white male.
I don’t know the person in the role at all. From what little information I do have it looks like he’s super qualified. The IOF have said he was ‘the best candidate for the job’, which I’m sure is true (there’s a whole blog post in that statement alone; that’s for another day). But, did they try to recruit more diversely? How was the selection panel constituted? Where did they advertise? What qualifications were outlined? Basically: how hard did they try? The premise of the role is that these questions are important for our sector. If the areas in which we are particularly underrepresented at senior levels are disability, race and gender*, it is hardly surprising that this appointment has raised some questions about how hard the IOF are trying. Maybe this has all been discussed and thought about. I would say that now is the perfect time for the IOF to share some of that thinking and model what excellence looks like. And to share how they’re engaging with underrepresented communities. I know that a white man can certainly work in diversity and do an excellent job, but he just might have to try a little harder to overcome the optics and to prove himself. And to that I say: welcome to the club.
*I am also not the first to say that just because I am not white, it doesn’t make me an expert on diversity. But I do think the increasing awareness of the validity of lived experience is an important shift if we are to start including unrepresented communities in the narrative. Also, the reality remains that throughout my career I have been asked to provide opinions, thoughts, strategies and my non white face to represent the diversity angle, so I’m giving myself a pass to have an opinion here.
* The Equality Act covers age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage & civil partnership, and pregnancy & maternity. The IOF Manifesto for Change doesn’t cover anything in relation to age, religion or belief, marriage & civil partnership or pregnancy & maternity. It addresses disability as follows: ‘The low overall employment rate for disabled people is a society-wide issue, but is one that we should be committed to address within the fundraising community. It covers sex in terms of wanting to ‘aim for a better gender balance between men and women in the fundraising community’ and also states that ‘Women make up 70% of the profession but this is not matched at senior level, and issues of gender discrimination remain’. With regards to gender reassignment and sexual orientation is states ‘In relation to LGBT+, we do not have definitive data, but there is an assumption that there are senior LGBT+ fundraisers, but the fact that they are LGBT+ may not be widely known’.