Pale, male and stale: older white men dominate UK charity boards

by Umberto Bacchi | @UmbertoBacchi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 13 November 2017 13:06 GMT

City workers sit at their desks in the early hours in the City of London, Britain October 17, 2017. Picture taken October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mary Turner

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"Trustees do not reflect the communities charities serve"

By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON, Nov 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - White, older men dominate leadership roles in most British charities, which are missing out on fresh skills and ideas to better assist the people they support, a report said on Monday.

Men outnumber women by two to one on charities' boards, with young people and ethnic minorities under-represented, according to government-commissioned research.

"Trustees do not reflect the communities charities serve," said Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, the charity watchdog for England and Wales.

"Charities are therefore at risk of missing out on the widest range of skills, experience and perspective at board level," she added in a statement.

The survey of a sample of about 3,500 trustees found 92 percent are white and more than half are retired, with the average age between 55 and 64.

Most are from families with above-average earnings, and coming from similar backgrounds, trustees overly rely on one other for advice and the recruiting of new board members, the report said.

This risks creating a culture of "group think" where decisions go unchallenged, it said.

"There is a danger that charity trustee boards might become myopic in their views," said the report, adding boards also often lacked in legal, digital, fundraising, marketing and campaigning skills.

"Diversity of experience, approach and personality helps guard against such problems," said Stephenson, urging charities to encourage applications from women and young people from socially diverse backgrounds.

About 700,000 trustees work, mostly as volunteers, at more than 160,000 charities registered in England and Wales, according to the report commissioned by the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission.

The charity regulator told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday that charity aid groups must to do more to foster a culture of safety to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

Oxfam and Save the Children revealed they sacked dozens of staff members over sexual misconduct in the last year. (Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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