EFC AGA 2018: Diversity in philanthropy – are we taking advantage of it?


Özen Pulat


The session “Power Matters: Leadership Culture in Foundations” organised by the Gender Equality Network of EFC during the 2018 Annual Conference made all participants dive into critical discussions about their organisations and hold a mirror to themselves. Are we ensuring diversity and inclusiveness in our organisations? If yes, is it valid for decision making positions? Are we using this opportunity as a reflection of society?

The answer is not very affirmative according to a survey made by EFC to its member organisations. The results show that only 32% of foundations have a policy on diversity and it covers all areas of their work. On the other hand, 28% of foundations do not have a diversity policy and they do not have any intention to develop one. These numbers explicitly show that diversity is not a common theme even in the foundations world.

Diversity can be related to gender, age, disability, ethnicity etc. Although it is widely accepted that diversity in the workplace promotes productivity, there is still a common employment pattern that addresses people with similar backgrounds and keeps certain group of people at the bottom of the job scale. The philanthropic sector, especially, needs to employ and promote people from diverse backgrounds into leadership positions. Only by doing so, foundations can be more reflective of the societies that we live in.

Table discussions during the session showed that women tend to work in the philanthropy sector more than men but when we look at the governance level, gender equality is still a serious problem. As one of the panelists Kathleen Cravero from the Oak Foundation said, “Diversity is number, inclusion is behavior, equity is the outcome”. Therefore, it is not enough to employ diverse groups; inclusion can be achieved when it is embedded in the core values of the organisation and diverse people are included in the decision-making processes. Each foundation may have its own programs and priorities but leaders shouldn’t be afraid of taking steps in terms of diversity and inclusiveness. This is the only way we can talk beyond numbers.

“Diversity is a road, we cannot finish it.”

As the other panelist Bharat Mehta from the Trust for London said diversity is an endless journey and there is always an action to be taken. So, what should the leaders do? First, the leaders of the organisations should hold a mirror to themselves and start looking for areas to improve. Do we have enough principles for equality? Are we excluding people with our HR policies? Is our office and work accessible? Are we consistent with our parental policies? Answering these questions and setting some indicators for diversity and inclusion can be very useful during this journey. It is also important to be the spokesperson of these indicators and make them visible to our partners, grantees and all other parties we work with.

The session successfully ended with lots of questions and inspirations in mind. Starting from leaders, we need to share ideas, set indicators, build best practices and challenge ourselves to achieve diversity in our organisations and most importantly take advantage of it.

Özen Pulat is program coordinator at the Sabancı Foundation.

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