How digital can help make charity recruitment fair and inclusive

Should charities be looking at digital recruitment platforms to help them build a more equal and fair hiring process for BAME candidates?

Chrissy Chiu | 18th Jul 19

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Like many other industries, voices in the charitable sector have come out in support for hiring more candidates from BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. But the reality is that the playing field for jobs is often skewed against BAME applicants. At the start of the year, the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford revealed that discrimination was rife against those from Asian backgrounds applying for jobs. Researchers in the study submitted nearly 3,200 fake applications for jobs, revealing that BAME candidates face levels of discrimination the likes of which have hardly changed since the 1960’s and 70’s.

Leaders in the charitable sector have taken note at the lack of diversity, and the significant gap in hiring BAME candidates. The ACEVO most recent report on diversity in the charity sector found that for the past decade there has been little improvement. The survey found that respondents from BAME backgrounds accounted for just 6%; in 2018 only 3%. And it’s still a sad fact that only 5.3% of people in charity senior leadership positions are from a BAME background.

> See also: Nominate your top charity BAME leaders

Darren Henley, chief of the Arts Council England is a strong supporter of diversity in the sector. In his book in 2016, commentary in 2018 and 2019, he has built up a case for advancing BAME staff from junior to senior levels, while declaring the current state of BAME participation in the third sector as ‘woeful’. His book, The Arts Dividend, advances the idea that “We need to understand – as many international businesses now do – that diversity is a major opportunity that we must embrace if we are to thrive.”


Technology can help recruit more BAME candidates

While charities are acknowledging the need for hiring those from BAME backgrounds, candidates still need to jump through significant hoops to get a job offer ahead of navigating the internal landscape. Looking at recruitment processes, using digital tools that help to understand and weed out innate biases can help to improve diversity and increase BAME participation.

‘Blind hiring’ is an approach that can help to increase the BAME candidacy pool – by removing name, race, gender, schools attended, and other details, hiring managers can search candidates based on experience without unconscious bias affecting their decisions.

Apps like HRx Technology can automate the blind hiring practices. Michael Page, a UK-wide recruitment agency, recommends removing names and tailoring the process to suit the vacancy itself. Using HR administrative tools, CVs can be automatically stripped of names which can encourage hiring managers to read further than a traditionally non-white name.

> See also: It’s time for us to recognise the barriers that BAME people face in the charity sector

Social media can also help charities advertise to and attract BAME candidates. Research from charitable organisation Getting on the Board notes that only 10% of trustee positions are ever advertised formally, with most recruitment relying on word of mouth – exacerbating existing biases and risking keeping the same pool of hires within a closed circle. Advertising senior level posts more widely can help charities broaden hiring networks and encourage BAME hiring.

Just recently, Comic Relief announced it is using online recruitment platform Applied to attract a more diverse range of candidates to its roles. The technology helps the charity improve how it assesses candidates based on their skills, with several mechanisms to put this into practice, including blind reviewing, job board analysis, gender decoding and diversity reporting.


Change comes from within

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, who became the first black female chief executive of Christian Aid, summarises the situation neatly: “What we can do as leaders within the charity sector is ensure that we have the policies and processes in place to give every person – no matter their race, gender, sexuality or physical ability – an equal opportunity to thrive within our organisations.”

Now that momentum is gathering within the charitable sector, there is much hope that people from BAME and other backgrounds can be represented at all organisational levels. Charities, as exemplary organisations, need to look not only for digital solutions, but for motivation within.