I chose the lack of representation in diverse leadership in the cultural arts sector. As a young person and emerging creative, it was incredibly difficult for me to find mentors and creatives who were like me. The pool is small and it works on the basis that if you don’t know everything you know nothing in my opinion. Knowledge is withheld and so Black and Brown leaders don’t get recognised for their work. Nor are they given the opportunities they need to grow. I joined sour lemons so that I could be one of those people making the change so that could happen, and after meeting Sade, Nat, and Chloe, three power house leaders of colour, only then was I aware this issue was a topic for conversation. And so I present to you the topic at hand – Diverse leadership as a necessity in the workplace.

My opinion was that organisations don’t want to hire black and brown people in senior management positions because they believed that black and brown people do not belong there. I assume this because the arts world is dominated by the white middle class and has historically been known to dismiss and discriminate against POC, to the point where there have been several initiatives made to encourage more BAME and Working class artists and new artists into the theatre. I also alternatively believed that those black and brown people that did get leadership roles were not actively making enough effort to send the ladder back down, because that would mean risking their positions in power or giving up their seat to accommodate for the next leader.

I emailed organisations like the Lyric Hammersmith, Battersea Arts Centre and others I had contact with asking for a breakdown of their diversity figures after the produced anti-racism statements, and got no response from any organisation. I also looked into the Arts Council’s report on diversity figures in leadership, read articles and statements based on those findings and findings of others, and finally managed to find out diversity figures thanks to the #pullupforchange campaign.

During the Covid-19 pandemic organisations put up their diversity figures as part of the #pulluporshutup campaign. This aided in my research. Just before that, the Arts Council England threatened to defund organisations with low diversity figures and highlighted many organisations who were at risk

The arts council promoted their recent diversity figures across national portfolio organisations allowing me to get exact data.

Along with this studies from the Harvard Business review and other sources proved that diversity in leadership led to better customer approval, proving that this is needed across the board

When researching i found the 2018-2019 diversity and data report by the Arts Council England stated that the total percentage of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) representation in their National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) workforce is just 11%, This includes 10% at CEO level and 15% across all boards. 

I discovered that the common consensus as evidenced from the pull up or shutup campaign (pictured) the Harvard business review, organisations like the BBC and Pippa Stevens at CNBC feel the cultural sector is not ethnically diverse, and that in fact many organisations are aware of this and taking steps to make change. Recently Sharon Cutler the head of a beauty brand started a campaign called Pull up for change. It was spearheaded by the hashtag #pulluporshutup. And many companies were asked to divulge their diversity quota over the last 10 years in terms of ethnicity and gender, in their leadership roles.

This helped my research greatly and I was able to understand that many organisation do in fact have POC in leadership positions, however it is still not enough, and even the Arts Council England agrees.

However Petra Abbam made a good point about how diversity is registered and whether we want to surround ourselves with people who think exactly like us, making me question how exactly I identify diversity and inclusion and Simon Heffers opinion allowed me to consider how people view professional artists but my opinions remained the same

My research only reiterated my views that there aren’t enough Black and Brown people in leadership positions, and that there is a common consensus across the board that the arts is failing in diversity across the board in terms of ethnicity and ability, however there has been an up rise in the amount of women enabled to reach leadership positions. Looking across the board I can see that the Simon Heffers of the world aren’t making as much of an effort to discourage and more of an effort to listen, but the performative and basic work that these companies are doing is not enough

Simon Heffer argues that the Arts Council is trying to ‘tick boxes’ ignoring the artists who have studied for 10-15 and putting them in the same league as ‘hip-hoppers’, uneloquently making the point that many creatives, mainly instrument players, have been working hard for years and may not get the recognition they deserve due to “political correctness” – a point which, although flawed, is carried by many others.

Petra Abbum argues that diversity, doesn’t just start at the quantifiable data and that opinions, personality and mind should all be included. She argues that different race,gender,age and sexual orientation doesn’t account for different viewpoints. She makes the case that we tend to have a habit of hiring those with similar viewpoints to us, and for decisions to be made that isn’t the best way of working.

And in an online debate on @the.renditions account under @mariahildy92’s response, @_1609_01 made an argument that there are only 3% of black people in the UK and so the figures promoted by the #pulluporshutup campaign actually reflect that there is an over representation of black people in leadership positions – a point which was grossly inaccurate as the figures were representing the London population which consists of 13% of Black people, and when responding to this they could not see that the figures still did not represent the cultural sector as it claims to be.

Currently diversity in the arts and cultural sector is limited to entry level jobs, or more commonly gender diversity in the form of white women. Meaning that the senior and decision making roles are left to the whimsy of white men and women.
A 2018-2019 diversity and data report by the Arts Council England stated that the total percentage of their National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) workforce with Black Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds is 11%. It also states that the amount of BME board representation across the NPOs is at 15%, Chief executive representation is 10% and the number of Chairs and Artistic Directors with BME backgrounds is 11%.
In London 15% of the workforce is BME , whereas London has a total of 40% of people with a BME background within its borders and is known for its cultural diversity.The #pullupforchange or as its more commonly known the #pulluporshutup campaign, revealed that a number of theatres had an issue with diversifying their leadership. Places like the Old Vic and Donmar Warehouse had 100% senior staff and in some cases staff across the board. This campaign was highlighted under the Black Lives Matter crisis and the response from the arts council with theatres and companies making bold statements around supporting and standing by Black Lives Matter , and many theatres scrambling to share their diversity data in the ‘hopes to do better’

In an online debate on @the.renditions account under @mariahildy92’s response, @_1609_01 made an argument that there are only 3% of black people in the UK and so the figures promoted by the #pulluporshutup campaign actually reflect that there is an over representation of black people in leadership positions, when corrected that the post reflected London’s Black representation of 13% they argued that “2 of your own statistics are above the 13% and a further 2 are within 5%. 4/9, just under half, can essentially be discounted’ and that  “theatres cannot do this. The equality act 2016. Stated that each employer must meet certain quotas, if they don’t they must explain why, if they can’t they get fined huge amounts of money. These are some of the biggest theatres in the Country which means that they’ve certainly either already have been investigated or are currently being investigated. There is no way a company can get away with hiring people based on there skin colour for long”, they also made the point “Donmar watehouse is in westminster which reported that just 7.5% of its population was black , therefore the black community is not hugely underrepresented there either.” On this comment I noted that regardless of these points, there are enough Londoners and non-Londoners applying for leadership positions with the right qualifications that are BME and so the representation should definitely not be that low, and also that no theatre should be 100% white as the population of the UK’s BME members is 40% which still discounts for the minorities that aren’t Black.

Clive Nwonga also makes the point, after the ACE’s ‘Lets Create’ strategy, that arts bodies, should for the sake of social justice at least diversify their hiring pool. This point, although problematic in some ways, makes a good argument that in order to properly reflect its community, a theatre or arts body should in fact be hiring leadership that represents those they entertain, and that ‘culture schemes’ aren’t enough. It is not about including the minorities who have been underrepresented but instead “the only attitude there should be is to employ and represent people of all races for social justice purposes. Twenty years on from the Macpherson report and the beginning of diversity, it appears that we still need reminding of this.” This furthering the debate on what exactly it should mean to be ‘diverse’ and why diversity is important.

It seemed that the Arts councils threat and ‘Let’s Create’ strategy also riled the pockets of Simon Heffer who made the argument that the strategy allowed for the ‘elite’ that are “almost inevitably, examples of cultural excellence without which our country would be poorer in every sense, and whose loss would suffocate the talents and ambitions of the next generation of performers and creators.” to be ignored and disregarded due to ‘political correctness.’ His argument makes the point that “A musician or any other serious artist who has studied for 10-15 years in school and conservatoire will be in competition with hip-hoppers or quilters for the same funds. In 1951 the Arts Council’s mission was ‘growing few, but roses’. The present strategy states that ‘everyone can be a gardener.” What he distinctly refuses to acknowledge in this statement is that the ACE has favoured those for many years, but more so that in order to get funding from those bodies you still have to prove your knowledge and value as an artist, with references and reports on how you are going to return on their investment.

The Harvard Business Review and many others proved time and time again that ‘diversity is good for business’ and that diverse decision making tables of different ethnic minorities, sexual orientation, gender, age and class creates a working environment that benefits the company in strides. They make the case that “Teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively. What’s more, we found that a 10% improvement in perceptions of inclusion increases work attendance by almost 1 day a year per employee, reducing the cost of absenteeism.” The report itself has been proven over thirteen times by different sources and the Arts, who is known for its championing of diversity is failing when it comes to this. 

However, many can argue much like Petra Abbams, that diversity is being limited to quantifiable data and isn’t being considered in terms of personality types and opinons. They states that “In an Arts Council England 2017 report, Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case[1] , diversity is addressed across five areas: gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and age. As with many reports across the sector (and indeed across all sectors), there is no mention of other types of diversity, such as thought, opinion or character. Why not?” and they make a good point. For there is no reason to fill your tables with people who think like you, otherwise all decisions end with us patting each other on the back. However, her statement doesn’t account for the quantifiable and unquantifiable data being synonymous. Yes you can be of the same race, gender etc.. and have different opinions and vice versa, but you can account for those people being at your table by actively looking for them. The idea of diversifying tables isn’t to tick boxes and hub together to make ideas with everyone always agreeing. The point is that by diversifying the table you are on, you will essentially fill you table with people who don’t always see eye to eye on the same topics, as their experiences will be different based on the intersectionalities of their respective lives.

If we are to actually have an inclusive and diverse arts sector, those numbers need to dramatically change. Leadership is a crucial part of equality and decision making tables should be doing the work to actively find and put BME people in leadership positions. But more than that leadership should be ready to hire people that will challenge their decisions and question them based on who they are and where they come from. 

The word ‘diversity’ itself has been loosened and constricted, instead allowing organisations to divert its meaning to gender and/or sexual identity, focusing on that and either over-looking over BME leaders, or not actively doing the work to find and welcome them into their buildings.
If there is minimal representation within your organisation at leadership levels of black and brown people, then your organisation is not diverse or inclusive. Doing the bare minimum and exclaiming there “are not enough black and brown leaders” is what is hindering your organisation from reaching top level potential.

If this is the case, then the amount of people holding positions of power should be more varied. Not just 50% women or 50% men, but a plethora of different cultures and knowledges. To ensure diversity at your tables, means to ensure accuracy in the work that you do and representation in the work that you produce. It is easier to hire people that look like you and speak like you or have similar experiences to you, that is the human defence that is community.

However, a community thrives and makes a space for themselves in the wider populace, if they share their cultures and experiences.

Honestly look around your table, if you notice that the majority of people there look like you, you have identified a problem. Is it your space? Is it the places you send out opportunities? Is it your own bias? Or do you simply need to venture into different communities and ask them how they would like to be connected with?

If the world is ‘diverse’ why is it so hard for us to diversify our spaces?