Diversity and Discrimination in The Charity Sector: What We Found

5 minute read

March for us has been a month to discuss diversity, we have released an in-depth report discussing diversity and discrimination in the charity sector. Following this, we have released weekly articles cove erring the specific topic of:

Diversity, inclusion & discrimination report




The charity sector is often perceived as being diverse and inclusive, our research sought to shed some light on whether this perception is really true. Does the charity sector truly represent the full breadth the of society it supports? Our aim was not to discuss equality opportunities policies or legislation but to gauge whether the action is actually being taken by organisations in the sector. We would love to know what you think, so please don’t be shy about leaving a comment below.

The report

This is an in-depth analysis of the survey that we sent to both candidates and recruiters last summer. We wanted to know if there was a gap between what candidates were experiencing and what recruiters were focusing on when it came to making their organisations more diverse and inclusive. One of the biggest revelations; candidates are experiencing a age discrimination in huge amounts, while recruiters are predominantly focused on making their organisations more diverse by gender and ethnicity. The report also unearthed a great deal about transferable skills as well as struggles with gender ethnic quality. Which then led to us covering a more detailed analysis of the report through a series of articles.

Read the report here

Age and Skills

Discrimination based on age and perceived skills proved to be a hot topic, and one that provoked a lot of responses; with 38% of candidates stating that they have suffered age discrimination. It seems that age discrimination hits both ends of the jobs market, with 41% of candidates over 40 saying they have been discriminated against because of their age and 31% of those aged 20-29 claiming the same for being too young. While being young and female having the most perceived discrimination with 625 of respondents claiming to have faced a combination of age and gender discrimination. As we can see, many more candidates felt they were perceived as being too old rather than too young, this was not a result we expected. It seems recruiters are equally unaware, with their focused aimed entirely at ethnicity and gender, with age featuring at only 8.8% and not a single having any measures in place for age diversity.

Many respondents expressed concerns about transferable skills, that they will not be taken seriously by the charity sector. 89% of respondents advised that they expect recruiters to allow them to maximize on transferable skills and 72% of recruiters saying that they do in face considering skills from outside of the sector, it is interesting to note that candidates seem to report the opposite, that applicants without charity sector experience are unlikely to make to interview. Despite both candidates and recruiters being aware of the desire to transfer into the charity sector, action is rarely taken with only 11% of recruiters actively encouraging applications from outside the sector. With that said, it seems that some job types are more easily accepted as being transferable, namely Admin Retail and IT, with Fundraising, Volunteer Management and Campaigning being perceived as less transferable.

Read the age and skills article

Diversity and Discrimination in The Charity Sector: What We Found


The ethnicity part of our research produced many intriguing results. Perhaps the most important find Is that charity leadership is not sufficiently ethnically diverse, with senior and leadership roles in the sector predominantly held by older white men. Only 3% of chief executives (who took part) were from BAME backgrounds. This figure continues to drop, having been higher than 3%, furthermore, only 10% of senior management and trustees in 50 charities were from non-white backgrounds. Questions emerge from these findings such as how can charities be representative of wider society if “ we don’t share the same diverse experiences of life in the UK today?” and comments such as “Charities must not keep recruiting clones of themselves: white, blond, middle-class women.”  It seems there is a perception among our respondents that charities are a white middle-class affair, this feeling appears to backed up by the data. While the charity sector has greater representation of ethnic diversity than the general population, it seems that there is a particular problem when it comes to leadership roles and potential role models.

39% of our respondents reported being from a BAME background, we can stipulate that our audience and potentially the charity sector are somewhat more diverse than the general population in which 14% of people are from BAME backgrounds. This in itself isn’t particularly surprising, however, it came as somewhat of shock that 56% of these candidates said they had experienced discrimination based on their race/ethnicity. The figure for ethnic discrimination rises even more severely for black women.

“I have never seen a black female in senior management in a charity and I have been working in the sector for over ten years.” 

“My name sounds very British, but as a black woman, I have seen “the look” 

Our survey also a perception that some causes are more open to ethnic diversity than others as well as speculation that roles such as health & social care have more BAME employees.

Read the ethnic diversity article


The survey produced some interesting result when it came to gender. The charity is perceived as being female dominated and this seems to be largely true, with 75% of candidates taking part being women. There is a perception that not enough women are in senior or high-level roles, this seems to be largely true with only marginal increases when it comes to women in senior management.

Our survey suggests a small split between those who think gender has had an impact on their career and those who do not (48%-50%). What was interesting was the clear gender split in this data, with men thinking gender had much less of an impact their career than women (27%-56%). A significant number of respondents (27%) stated they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, which is a high number, but less than those who claimed to experienced age-based discrimination. Many of the comments provided suggested that senior management can prove inaccessible to women

“So hard to get into the “boys club” of senior levels. We don’t get the same mentoring and support opportunities.”

Men also reported facing discrimination, this may not prove too surprising, being 30% of the reported workforce. Many men reported that the sector is so female-focused that career progression can prove difficult for them. The concern is that men are not seen as the right “fit” for the charity sector, particularly for non-senior roles.

“I do believe that the charity sector, in particular, is weighted towards the recruitment of women and that the charity sector is becoming more female orientated.”

Our results did not show a gender pay gap in the charity sector, though naturally this is only based on our own respondents. Though it seems that a pay gap does exist due to a disproportionate amount of men in senior roles. The reason for this seems uncertain, however, it could be due to the number of women who are in part-time roles. Women who are over 40 reported an increased amount of gender-based discrimination:

“Facing older woman syndrome.”

“At 52 I feel some companies see that as a woman you are past the age of being fit. In this day and age this is not the case.”

Recruiters were largely aware of many of the gender-based issues in the sector, acknowledging that it is predominantly female but that the same level of representation is not repeated at senior levels. The major issue seems to be equal career progression rather than equal pay and much of the remedies seem to be a better investment in flexible working and understanding of caring responsibilities. In this sense, the charity sector differs very little from the corporate sector.

Read the gender diversity article

In all, we’ve learned a great deal about diversity in the charity sector and hope that these articles will help spark conversations that lead to action. We appreciate all of the experiences that were shared by both our candidates and recruiters as it has helped us to gain a better understanding of the charity sector and what needs to be done to improve it.  Have anything you’d like to share? Mention it in our comments section below.


Jade Phillips

Marketing Manager at CharityJob. A true bookworm and social media geek, you'll find me living in pockets of online communities. Unattended snacks might go missing if left around me...

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