The role of data is fundamental to the process of producing a credible Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). If we are to bring about meaningful change and create a more inclusive landscape for sport and physical activity to thrive, we need to start by looking at ourselves, our volunteers and our participants.
We also need to pose ourselves the really difficult question ‘to what extent do we represent the communities we purport to serve?’ Tackling this question is where the importance of data becomes apparent. In short, we need to know about who we are and the extent to which we reflect society more widely. For example, all things being equal, we might reasonably expect to find that 51% of the workforce in sport are women and around 15% are ethnically diverse.
We know from the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequality in Sport research that women (44%) and ethnically diverse communities (7%) are underrepresented in the sport and physical activity workforce. If we extend the analysis to the nine Protected Characteristics as well as data on socio-economic status and lived experiences, we find that those who have encountered disadvantage in their lives tend to be underrepresented in both participation and the workforce.
By being aware of these issues, we can do something about them, which is why Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans will be drivers of the change we all wish to achieve. Data can be bit of a dry subject matter, so it pays to illustrate a few basic points with some practical examples and where better to start than with UK Sport and Sport England?
UK Sport’s DIAP makes it absolutely clear about its ambition to reflect the wider population as shown in the quote below.
By 2031, the people in UK Sport will be fully reflective of UK society. Specifically, this means that our Board, Senior Executive Leadership, and Workforce, will separately and collectively be comprised of min: 50% female, 20% disabled, 14% diverse ethnic background, and 3% LGBTQ+, as well as people with different lived, regional and socio-economic experiences.
Under the requirements of A Code for Sport Governance, Tier 3 System Partners need to know the diversity credentials of their board, their senior leadership team and their wider workforce as an absolute minimum. If we do not have a baseline of who the key people are, then it is not possible to produce credible evidence about how representative organisations are and how they have changed over time. This is where UK Sport has shown ambition and leadership with some unambiguous metrics around what it wishes to achieve. In its current draft, the UK Sport DIAP does not contain baseline data, which means we can’t see the extent to which UK Sport is representative of UK society at the start of its DIAP journey. However, a good example of using baseline data can be seen in Sport England’s DIAP which states:
We prioritise and collect good quality people data to assess the make-up of our workforce and our Board, assisting us to identify barriers and solutions. The data is at 28 February 2021. Our data focuses on four protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act: race (referred to ethnic group), disability (referred to disabled/ long term conditions), sex (referred to gender) and sexual orientation (referred to LGBT+).
Using the data in Appendix 3 of Sport England’s DIAP enables a clear diagnosis to be made about the organisation’s levels of diversity on the characteristics it has selected as being important, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: The representativeness of Sport England’s Board and workforce
Sport England measures the representativeness of its 12 Board members on the basis of ethnicity and sex. When we compare the findings with the population of England, we find a higher proportion of women and ethnically diverse people than in the population as a whole. On these two measures the Board more than adequately represents the wider population. By contrast, Sport England’s senior leadership team is eight strong and its data are not reported separately, because:
As numbers are less than 10, Sport England is unable to report diversity breakdown due to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
The GDPR issue is a really important learning point and System Partners will need to think carefully about what data they hold about their Board and workforce and what permissions they have to use it and publish it.
Finally, Sport England has around 290 paid staff (including the senior leadership team) and reports against five of the nine Protected Characteristics. For disability and ethnicity the organisation is under representative of the wider population, whereas for sex and sexual orientation the scores are representative.
Another important learning point is that achieving representativeness can be limited by the small numbers that are apparent in some groups. For example, a typical Board will be no more than 12 people. If 5% of the population describe their sexual orientation as LGB+, then we might expect 0.6 Board members to have this characteristic, which is clearly nonsense. However, amongst a staff of 290, we would expect at least 14 people to be LGB+, which is entirely reasonable.
As we get further into the DIAP support process, we will be developing resources such as question banks and case studies to help System Partners collect and make sensible use of their data. In the first instance, we will be delivering a webinar in May which will examine data in more detail and hopefully provide System Partners with increased confidence as to what data they collect; how they collect it; and most importantly how they use it.
We believe that morall, greater diversity is an important goal to pursue and it is also good for business. We will support you to use your data to meet these objectives, as we work our way through the DIAP process.
Written by Simon Shilibi, Sheffield Hallam University
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