What does a month of Pride mean for diversifying trusteeship?
It’s Pride month and our feeds are flooded with multicoloured banners. With so much colour dazzling our eyes it can be hard to look beyond the rainbows and to see the message on the other side.
Pride month exists because of the unstinting work of the LGBTQ+ activists and campaigners – all volunteers – who have done so much to raise awareness of the crushing prejudices that people have faced throughout the ages and across the globe.
And continue to face today. A cursory look at the Stonewall Charity website tells us “One in eight lesbian, gay and bi people (12 per cent) wouldn’t feel confident reporting any homophobic or biphobic bullying to their employer. One in five trans people (21 per cent) wouldn’t report transphobic bullying in the workplace.” And
“more than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.”
Inevitably, some of these experiences will have taken place in the charity sector.
At Getting on Board we know from our own research that one of the big barriers for people from one or more groups under-represented on charity boards applying to become trustees can be that they don’t feel that these are spaces for people like them.
Everyone should have the right to bring their whole self to work whether that’s voluntary or paid. Now, that’s an easy enough statement to write, but what does it mean in practice?
Here are a few things we consider important.
It’s knowing that the people around you are empathetic to your lived experiences whether you choose to disclose them or not. That means making sure board members are called out, respectfully and honestly, for casual and unthinking homophobic microaggressions, it means changing language to be non-discriminatory, it means making sure recruitment policies are inclusive.
It means making sure that services reflect people’s needs. To achieve this boards need to discuss services from the point of view of LGBTQ+ users regardless of whether you know or don’t know if you have someone who is LGBTQ+ on your board or not. Though this will definitely be more likely if a board has recruited openly and included statements of inclusivity (including why they need to be more inclusive, not just that they currently are not) in their advert.
We know this list is far from finite and we’re committed to changing the face of trusteeship by helping as many people as possible become trustees and through raising awareness of why open recruitment brings strong governance.
Sometimes it’s not easy to effect change, particularly when you might not have the lived experience that allows you to have an innate understanding of the difference it makes. And it can be hard work that as a trustee you hadn’t anticipated when you took the position on. But there’s no more important work than this.
It’s about putting kindness above convenience.
And this has a knock on effect. Kindness is not only a reward within itself, for a charity board it breeds good governance, builds organisational resilience and makes your charity better at what it does.
So amid the celebration this month, we want to pause and take stock. We want to know how we can be the best of allies, what are the most important messages and voices to amplify and how can we do better. Above all, what can we do next to help?
To find out more about how to diversify your board through open recruitment, sign up for Getting on Board’s monthly repeater webinars How to diversify your board and How to recruit trustees for your charity board.
Fiona McAuslan is Getting on Board's Marketing and Communications Director