The business case for diversity


Hilary Farmiloe, Aspire Instructability (chair)
Shaheen Bi, Sporting Equals
Ruth Holdaway, Women in Sport
Barry Horne, English Federation of Disability Sport

Some interesting points were raised in this discussion on diversity. Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of Women in Sport, explained that while every publicly funded governing body of sport must have a minimum of 30 per cent of one gender on their board, gender diversity at leadership level is actually good for business.

“Organisations that have 30 per cent or more of women on their board do better than those that don’t. Women aren’t a minority group; they make up 51 per cent of the population, so why would you want to exclude half of your talent pool?” she asked.

On average, the national governing bodies (NGBs) of sport are achieving 30 per cent board gender diversity, but to this diversity needs to be sustainable with a pipeline of female leadership talent within sport.

As such, Holdaway outlined the following guidelines to help organisations become more gender diverse:

  • Develop an effective recruitment and retention strategy which focuses on attracting diverse talent and nurtures it
  • Promote a wide range of flexible working practices
  • Involve men and women in achieving the shared goal of gender equality
  • Challenge gender stereotypes; they limit women to certain roles and excludes them from others
  • Modernise organisational structures and practices to enable more women to rise up through the organisation.

Disabled people make up 20 per cent of the population and are disproportionately keen to be active. Yet, said Barry Horne, chief executive of the English Federation of Disability Sport, there is a fear around employing disabled people, exacerbated by the lack of understanding about different impairments and health conditions.



If organisations want a more diverse customer base, they need to think differently about employing disabled people, said Horne.

“Disabled people are effective employees; they take less sickness absence than non-disabled people, said Horne. They also bring their lived experiences as disabled people to an organisation’s thoughts and process, which is an important perspective and adds value.”

Shaheen Bi, head of research & projects at Sporting Equals, presented some sobering statistics: only one CEO of 68 audited NGBs and 26 of 601 board members are from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

She said organisations need to bring in more skills to better reflect the audiences they serve, understand cultural sensitivities and the barriers some groups face in accessing programmes.

Hilary Farmiloe, project manager of Aspire Instructability and chair of this session, described the sector as being in a chicken and egg situation.

“We’ve got to get more populations into the sector to recruit more diversely. And we can’t lay this just at the door of employers; it applies to training providers and awarding organisations too. We need a foundation strategy to enable diversity in the sector and provide opportunities to ensure people come up through the ranks.”

Suggestions from the panel on how to recruit more diversely included changing the language used in advertising roles, creating a more diverse interview panel and considering new avenues for advertising jobs such as ethnic media. A look at the profile of applicants will quickly show if you are appealing to a diverse audience.

“Disabled people are effective employees; they take less sickness absence than non-disabled people”
— Barry Horne