Meeting 10 – 14/5/21


  1. Welcome.
  2. Updates.
  3. Session: The importance of Racial Diversity on Boards and how CEOs and Boards can advance this agenda.
  4. Next meeting.
  5. AOB.
  1. Welcome:

Paul welcomed everyone to the meeting and highlighted that the focus will be on the main session today but that Celia had been asked in advance to update on Rowntree’s recent statement on the origins of their endowment.

2. Updates:

Celia shared her experience publishing the Rowntree statement, some of the prep work and ongoing activity. Celia said that she would share the action plan created for the release of the statement with the group.

3. Session: The importance of Racial Diversity on Boards and how CEOs and Boards can advance this agenda.

Malcolm John started off the session.

Malcolm is the founder of the campaign, Action for Trustee Racial Diversity, set up to address underrepresentation of people from Black and Asian backgrounds on charity trustee Boards. He was on the board of Anti-Slavery International, where he worked on recruiting more Black and Asian trustees. It was in doing this that he got a real sense that this was a serious issue across the charity sector. This is particularly noted by the facts below:

  • Women of colour represent 2.9% of people on charity boards (20,000 out of 700,000 trustees)
  • 92% of charity boards members are white.

Malcolm is also a trustee of the Association of Chairs (AoC) where he is working on engaging Black and Asian chairs. A mapping exercise by his campaign, Action for Trustee Racial Diversity (ATRD), in its first year showed a lack of access to or knowledge of Black and Asian networks by charities. ATRD has now created a database of over 500 Black and Asian led network organisations across sectors and across the UK. This was created largely through research on Google and social media networks such as Linkedin and Facebook. This year, Malcolm is writing a guide on how charities might recruit and retain Black and Asian trustees and has now shared the draft with the group. He has also created a social media network set up specifically for Black and Asian trustees to share experiences, network, etc. He also works closely with Getting on Board and the Young Trustees Movement.

Malcolm took questions from the group:

Celia asked Malcolm how we can shift the diversity on the boards of organisations like JRCT that are made up of a certain population eg the Quaker population that is predominantly white?

Malcolm queried whether JRCT could focus on networks and connections with people of colour in the Quaker population. Looking at ways of drawing in people from black and Asian communities by adding profiles/photos on website of those you want to see within your organisation. Malcolm highlighted that this happens a lot from member-led organisations too, highlighting the catch 22 situation – our membership isn’t diverse so how can we recruit for diversity? For some they have simply decided to change the rules on recruitment of new trustees. JRCT could search beyond those in the Quaker Community, possibly adding 3-4 members that better represent the communities they serve.

James asked how we can look wider than our own organisation and try to move this issue on? Something that he has been doing. James mentioned the calls externally from organisations to account for ourselves rather than simply saying, ‘there’s nothing we can do.’

Dr Ambreen Shah | LinkedIn – the shadowing programme at Smallwood Trust

Ambreen commented on her first experience of walking into a trusts and foundations conference some years ago now and how that felt – intimidating, full of privilege, paternalistic.  As it was 6-8 years ago now if not a bit longer – things may have changed!

She highlighted the barriers that stopped her from being a trustee until recently with Smallwood, her first trustee position. These included; a lack of time but also the perception of the kind of person that sits on a board. Ambreen didn’t feel like she had something to offer, didn’t feel it was for someone like her – she certainly wasn’t being sought to join a board. It feels that there is now more of an environment and recognition that it’s not okay to have boards that aren’t representative of the communities they serve. When recruiting for the trustee role at Smallwood, it helped so much to have a recruitment process that was open and a supportive (Smallwood used Prospectus to do this). It was an open recruitment process which Ambreen saw on LinkedIn

The leap to become a trustee didn’t feel so great for Ambreen because she’s had experience of a board at Exec Team level in her previous roles. Without that, she understands that this would be really difficult for people. For those shadowing Ambreen (two of whom have set up charities themselves), going from where they are today, to applying for a trustee role is probably a bigger leap. The shadowing opportunity is a really safe way to learn and trial the experience. It can be a route to other trustee roles for them or succession planning for the organisation. The two other women recruited for the shadowing opportunity are living in poverty currently and their motivation for the role was to look to the future and build a portfolio of experiences that helped them, ready for when they want to become a trustee and to hopefully support them into training, education and employment.

These women were recruited through grantees, key stakeholders, and social media and there was a range of excellent candidates. Support provided includes; 1:1s with Ambreen; an introduction with Paul and the trustee board; an introduction to each other for peer support.

Details on the shadowing opportunity are included in the email as an attachment.

Penny Wilson – Getting on Board

Penny added her thoughts on the session topic. She said that organisations really need to think about the environment we’re inviting people into and not draw them into really difficult, unwelcoming situations. People generally don’t want to have conflict, and therefore don’t necessarily want trustees on the board that are going to disagree with them. We have all got to remember that the point of governance isn’t to agree with each other all the time – this is a good thing. 

It’s not simply about recruiting for diversity but creating an inclusive environment. The diversity part is a little less complex – inclusion is much, much harder because you’ve got to have everyone on board and create the best environment. New trustees need to feel valued, useful, and any historic, bad behaviours within the group they are joining, need squashing in advance. We’ve got to get better at induction.

The group felt there is more on inclusion and building the best environment that we can discuss as a group in the future.

4. Next Meeting

We agreed that the next meeting will be on Friday 25th June at 1.30pm. 

The main session will focus on how we can try to influence the advancement of racial justice outside our own organisations.

The session will be led by Stewart and Celia and notes will be taken by Julia.

Mark suggested that we might in-between sessions look at collaborations across our organisations.

5. AOB

There were no AOBs from the group.

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