Picking up the pace on diversity

How are we doing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)?

Whether this is an insight or simply a new cliché in the making, I don’t know but so many areas of personal or organisational development today are described as a ‘journey’ and this feels apt for us. 

At Pilotlight, we have been running a working group on DEI from July 2020, with staff and trustee involvement to explore our strengths and weaknesses. We set out to build a practical action plan, which would help us improve diversity, equity and inclusion within Pilotlight, and positively influence our Partner Charities, Businesses and Members.

I have talked before – for example here - about this work and our learning, getting out of denial and into a recognition of the need not just for urgent action but this in the context of a sustained, long-term commitment to race equality and openness in the face of deep-rooted systems and legacies of discrimination. 

Starting from points of both weakness and strength, our goal is that Pilotlight becomes an effective champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, and is against racism and discrimination of all kinds, building our knowledge and networks to support this. 

We are looking to:

  • Reflect this in the diversity of our key constituencies, including Pilotlighters and our Partner Charities, valuing the insights that difference brings and supporting each in terms of learning and development on diversity
  • Build on our current competencies around bridging worlds and facilitating processes to achieve mutual learning, making diversity, equity and inclusion key to our success
  • Have internal expertise on equalities, both for the management of our programmes but also for the base of guidance and knowledge that we draw on to support charity partners.

Our diversity monitoring of new members and end of project monitoring shows that we are seeing some progress through steps to increase the number of female Pilotlighters, Pilotlighters from more diverse backgrounds and those with lived experience of disability. 

In 2021, we completed 110 projects and collected diversity data through end of project surveys. Of the 226 Pilotlighters who responded: 

  • 41% (93) were female (up from 39%, 87)
  • 11% (25) were from Asian, Black, British Asian, Chinese, Jewish, White African or mixed ethnic backgrounds (up from 10%, 22)
  • 54% (121) were less than 45 years.

Of the 85 charity leaders who responded: 

  • 78% (66) were female
  • 8% (6) Asian, Black or mixed ethnic backgrounds
  • 45% (21) were less than 45 years.

It was notable that our longer programmes, including Pilotlight 360, were less diverse, which is a change from previous years and one to act on. 

These are headline figures, and I know that we risk being oversimplified even in compiling data in this way. To be in a group classed as a minority implies that society has minoritised you – to be clumped together with others from different groups can compound that rather than challenge it. Either way, the numbers are small enough to mean that reporting on ethnicity in a more specific way might then be tied back to individuals, which raises questions of privacy. We will have to look at all of this when we come to ethnicity pay gap reporting – and welcome input, challenge and guidance from others who have considered how to do this. 

There is a headline in these headline figures though and it is this. At this rate of progress, statistical equality would take far too long, an epic journey. Luckily, there is some evidence that the pipeline for 2022 is speeding up. Through the Ignite Initiative, for example, we have welcomed 21 leaders from diverse backgrounds and experiences enriching our community of purpose supporting charities through our Pilotlight 360 programme. 

The Ignite Initiative is a pilot, designed to bring new voices to the table and to help develop new leaders from a wider range of backgrounds, but it draws on what we have done before in terms of a bursary initiative, which focused on charity leaders. 

Our DEI Action Plan for 2022 – 2023 includes this and a range of other actions, including a focus on disability and work with disabled people’s organisations and accreditation with two assurance frameworks on diversity and inclusion. We are proud to be working with Partner Businesses such as Barclays on programmes around inclusive leadership. We have an active DEI Committee in the staff, leading on training and awareness, and DEI champions among the trustees. 

In all of this, we have drawn on generous input and support, patience where we have got things wrong and encouragement to get them right. As part of this, can I give a personal thank you to Amo Raju, CEO of Disability Direct and Pilotlighter, for kicking off our focus on disabled persons organisations, with a training session for the team drawing on his book Walk Like A Man.  

At an event last month for the Ignite Pilotlighters, we recognised that their role as Pilotlighters is to bring their skills and experience, and to learn in the process. Our role is to do the same, to learn from this for the next steps on our way – our journey to equality.