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#OperationTransparency calls for regulator to act on trustee diversity transparency

Melanie May | 16 March 2022 | News


An open letter to the Charity Commission calling for action to improve transparency over trustee diversity has attracted over 40 signatures so far from across the sector, including the Co-op Foundation, New Philanthropy Capital, Charity So White, and The Charity Excellence Framework.

According to the Commission’s own 2017 Taken on Trust report, trustee diversity is very low with men outnumbering women two to one on trustee boards, yet while it stated in this report that ‘Diversity is an important policy issue [and] the most straightforward way would be to request this information in aggregate form in the annual return’, the Commission has yet to make any changes. Just last year, similar proposals were made by the FCA, and #OperationTransparency is calling for the Commission to act and close the data gap.

In its open letter #OperationTransparency, which has Money4You’s Carol Akiwumi and Jay Richardson behind it, states that the lack of data both masks the issue and makes it more difficult to fix, and calls for the regulator to commit to robust monitoring of trustee diversity, rather than just the occasional survey or think tank.

#OperationTransparency proposes that:

“All organisations which file an annual return to the Charity Commission should be required to include standardised data tables on the diversity of their board and senior leadership, including the characteristics currently proposed for reporting by listed companies under new proposed Financial Conduct Authority rules CP21/24 (gender and ethnicity), and also including other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.”


“Like the tables proposed by the FCA, each field should contain only percentages to ensure that individual trustees’ protected characteristics are not identifiable, and should include a ‘Not specified/prefer not to say’ option that will allow organisations to withhold disclosure entirely if they have security concerns or other reasons for doing so.”

Such a move, it states, would strengthen governance across the sector by: boosting public trust in charities by increasing transparency, giving investors and donors the means of holding organisations to their senior leadership diversity commitments, and holding funders to account for the diversity of their funding decisions. It would also enable targeted, effective interventions to address historic funding inequalities; and encourage organisations which do not currently measure board diversity to reflect on their performance in this area. 

#OperationTransparency is asking anyone who believes leadership diversity is an issue to join it, and to sign and share the letter, which can be found here, along with more information and a full list of signatories.