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Board diversification project launched

New survey shows 40% of board members at bodies funded by us and UK Sport are now women

20th September 2019

We've partnered with UK Sport and recruitment specialist Perrett Laver to improve the diversity of board members in the sport and physical activity sector.

New research into diversity in sport governance reveals that women now account for 40% of board members across bodies funded by either us or UK Sport, but that diversity in areas such as ethnicity and disability remains a challenge.

Click on the links below to read the full report and executive summary – if embedded links in the PDF do not function correctly in Google Chrome, please use another browser or open the report in a dedicated PDF viewer:

woman playing wheelchair basketball

With evidence showing that diverse boards perform better, Perrett Laver is responsible for identifying and developing a pool of senior, experienced candidates from a variety of backgrounds including black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), disabled and LGBT+ to help organisations develop more diverse boards.

This process kicked off last year as we, with funding from both the National Lottery and the government, invested £400,000 in identifying and enabling diverse candidates to be ‘board ready’.

Since then, 84 candidates have been recruited and are now available for appointment, with six having already been made and more expected in the near future.

“Organisations with diverse boards have diversity of thought,” said Nick Bitel, our chair. “That means they make better decisions, are more successful, and crucially are better able to understand and reach the audiences we want to engage in sport and physical activity.

“We believe that sport is for everyone and that sport and physical activity should benefit all sections of society.

“That’s why it's so important that diversity at board level is a priority and that the rich diversity of our communities is reflected at the highest level of leadership within all sports.

  • Insight from the report

    Click read more to expand

    • Women now account for 40% of board members across bodies funded by us or UK Sport. At the time of conducting the survey, almost three quarters of sports boards had achieved the required gender benchmark of 30% as set out in A Code for Sports Governance.
    • However, slower progress has been made on BAME representation, with BAME board members accounting for just 5.2% of all board members identified.
    • In addition, only 5% of board members declared or consider themselves to have a disability, compared to around 22% in the wider UK population.
    • While 3% of board members identified as being openly LGBT+, which is slightly above the national average for the UK population.
    Read less

“While the greater representation now being seen of women on boards is welcome, the overall picture of diversity in its broadest sense is completely unacceptable and requires practical action and greater, faster change. 

“That’s why our partnership with Perrett Laver, along with UK Sport, to build up an experienced and talented pool of diverse candidates is so important and timely. Sports bodies will still choose the best individual for the role they need to fill, but there will be a greater selection of experienced diverse candidates to choose from.

“This is one of the most significant and concrete steps forward that we have made in promoting inclusion across the sector and we're committed to continuing this work.”

  • New appointment

    Click read more to expand

    One of the candidates resulting from our work already, Tejal Patel, who is the EMEAR digital director at Cisco, has today been announced as a board member for British Shooting.

    “I was immediately attracted to the programme,” she said. “As a huge sports fan and with my commercial, private sector background, I feel I can bring a diverse perspective that can help make a difference to delivering British Shooting’s objectives.

    “I have seen first-hand the power of diverse and inclusive teams in organisations and I’m excited to join the British Shooting board.”

    Read less

The Diversity in Sport Governance report was prepared by Inclusive Boards on behalf of us and UK Sport, and provides a comprehensive picture of the diversity of boards up to the end of 2018.

And Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK Sport, paid tribute to the impact of A Code for Sports Governance, which was co-produced by us and UK Sport and brought into force in 2017.

“It’s been two years since the introduction of A Code for Sports Governance and we’ve seen significant progress around the number of women serving on boards across the sport sector. This is hugely encouraging but we are under no illusions that there is still a huge amount of work to do in the area of diversity.

BAME members

Just 5.2% of all board members identified across Sport England and UK Sport-funded bodies were BAME

“Diversity of experience and thought around the board table is essential if sports organisations are to effectively represent and engage people from all quarters of society. Today’s report reveals the work still required to make sure talented people from a range of backgrounds have the opportunity to influence the way sports organisations at all levels operate and represent their members and stakeholders.”

With Perrett Laver senior consultant Imogen Sanders adding: “The response across the sector has been extremely positive, with real interest in accessing the pool of talent being identified.

“The candidates we are working with bring new and innovative approaches to ensure sport fulfils this potential.

“The skills and perspectives they offer will help transform how sport and physical activity is delivered in this country.”

Perrett Laver is supported in the delivery of the project by a consortium of expert partners, including RimJhim Consulting, Birkbeck University of London, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Women on Boards and Activity Alliance.

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