Arts organisations ‘treading water’ on diversity

Arts Council England’s annual report on diversity shows some improvements on gender, but little movement on disability and slow progress on BAME representation.

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Despite gradual improvements the arts sector is still “treading water” on diversity, particularly with regard to disability, according to the Arts Council England’s fourth annual diversity report.

The Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case report features data from 2017-18 and reveals that disabled people remain under-represented – only 5% of the over 660 organisations in the Arts Council’s National Portfolio and 4% of Major Partner Museum (MPM) staff identify as disabled, despite making up 20% of the working age population. There is better representation at leadership level – 7% of Chief Executives, 8% of Artistic Directors and 6% of Chairs.

Slow progress

It also shows slow progress on improving Black and minority ethnic representation (BME). A small increase in representation across the workforce and leadership of National Portfolio Organisations [NPOs] shows a shift from 10%-12%.  By contrast 16% of the working age population are from BME backgrounds.  MPMs reported that only 5% of staff were not white.

However, the report also shows positive news on gender, with more than half of the organisations in the Portfolio being run by female Chief Executives and the number of female Artistic Directors having increased from 35% to 46% between 2016/17 and 2017/18.  Nevertheless, it identifies a need for more work to be done in relation to female Chairs, where we have seen a marginal increase (35% to 37%).

Diversity in artistic programming

The report also shows organisations are getting better at integrating diversity into their artistic programming. In 2017/18, 51% of NPOs were rated as ‘good’, the highest possible rating, up from a third in 2015/16.

Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “The data from our annual diversity report shows where we are on the journey to become better representative of society. There has been progress in some areas; in others we see little momentum. We must be more focussed in our approach to the issues and from next year we will be reporting in greater detail, looking at diversity in the context of the funding organisations receive as well as their artistic disciplines.”


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