Underrepresentation in the Arts
What was the issue?
The Southbank Centre is a world-famous, multi-venue arts centre in London, with a dynamic year-round festivals programme and an inclusive ethos. In 2013 it reviewed its workforce statistics and felt that its staff were not truly representative of its communities and audiences.
The organisation strongly felt its workforce should better reflect society more broadly and so it took action by designing a number of initiatives, programmes and measures to tackle under representation at different levels of the organisation.
The centre developed a diversity strategy that aims to better build an organisation that embodies, understands and values staff with a diversity of backgrounds, ideas, skills and experience. It wanted staff to fully contribute to greater creativity, innovation and effective decision making, and help better understand the way to attract and meet the needs of its diverse audiences. This included a whole range of recruitment initiatives to attract more people from underrepresented backgrounds, and once they were within the organisation to enhance their chances to access promotional opportunities.
It changed its website, adding the statement, “We present work for everyone and we welcome applications from everyone. By attracting people to work for us from a broad range of backgrounds with diverse attitudes, opinions and beliefs we can continue to look at the world with fresh eyes and find new ways of doing things”.
It also added a positive action statement on its website to encourage BAME and deaf and disabled people to apply. It removed names from application forms and all managers have mandatory recruitment training which includes unconscious bias training.
- It broadened its recruitment sources including greater use of social media.
- It also set recruitment targets for BAME applications and appointments.
- It introduced a drive amongst managers to increase the number of internal only vacancies, to enhance the chances for underrepresented groups already in the organisation to access promotional opportunities.
- It set up a number of pathways to employment, including volunteering, work experience, traineeships, apprenticeships as well as talent programmes to help people apply for more senior roles, there or elsewhere in the sector.
What was the impact?
Apprenticeships: It has employed 19 apprentices, 42.1% from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Work experience: It is now in year five of a targeted work experience programme with a partner school in a deprived part of Lambeth to engage young people aged 14 who do not have connections in the sector to think about careers in the arts. It has also partnered with a charity that enables Year 12’s to complete work experience in their school holiday. In the last academic year, 70% of these students were from BAME backgrounds.
Strengthening its Common Lives (SOCL): Working in partnership with another charity it enables a young person from a BAME background to receive funded training in our participation team on an annual basis.
Volunteering: It re-energized its volunteer programme to enable people who wouldn’t normally engage in the arts to gain first hand exposure to visitor experience and see this as a pathway to employment. In 2017, 31% of our Volunteers were from a BAME background.
Bring out Potential (BOP): It has now created and implemented a training programme which has run for three years, with the aim of upskilling staff from its front of house teams to get them ready for office-based roles. Of the 32 people who have completed the programme, 34% are from a BAME background.
Accelerate: In October 2016, it launched a positive action programme developed in partnership with two other arts charities specifically aimed BAME staff (and those deaf and disabled) to help them move into management. There were 17 people from a BAME background. Five of the participants have already gone into more senior roles within the arts. It is currently running this with 20 participants across seven partners.
As a result of all of its activities, its overall BAME workforce statistics rose from 13.1% to 21.1% in four years. This included increased representation of BAME staff at manager level moving from 8.5% to 11.1%