Questions of class are never far from headlines in the arts, but there is limited independent guidance on how to monitor socio-economic background and devise staff surveys. The Bridge Group, however, have undertaken extensive research, in partnership with the Cabinet Office, on how to do this and maintain high ethical standards.
Based on this research, we advise that organisations should include the following questions in their equal opportunities monitoring forms for applicants and their existing workforce (employed and freelance, artists and administrators):
- Type of school attended at age 11-16
- Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility
- Parental experience of higher education
- Parental occupation when you were aged 14
Full guidance is available on how to monitor socio-economic diversity in Appendix A.
Research from the Bridge Group and the Cabinet Office indicates that if only one question is asked, number 4, relating to parental occupation, is the key indicator and the one to choose.
The main reasons for this are because it is a strong predictor of adult outcomes, it is internationally applicable, and response rates at employers across sectors have been relatively positive.
It is also the indicator used in many national surveys, including the Labour
Whether you include all four questions, and in how much detail, will depend on your organisation’s size and the context for your work, what you decide you want the data for, and what level of analysis you will be able to do with it. If possible, do some piloting to get a sense of what works for your capacity, and your programmes.
For example, Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility is a very powerful measure if you work predominately with people who have been through the English school system since 1980, and you can get general data on FSM in the population to benchmark against. Your monitoring data will give you a baseline to measure against, and the evidence you need to help you decide where to focus your energy and resource. Measuring and monitoring will enable you to assess your impact, and in time, see how you are doing compared with others in our sector, and in other sectors.
The monitoring of socio-economic diversity is becoming increasingly common practice, and Arts Council England is expected to publish guidance on what measures to use soon. Those already monitoring this area of diversity include the BBC, Channel 4, the Civil Service, most large professional services firms, and the BFI (including through their funding criteria ‘Diversity Standards’), alongside some arts organisations including The Young Vic and Battersea Arts Centre.
Some larger arts organisations have set themselves public targets to help drive diversity and inclusion, regarding both their staff composition and artistic production. These targets are art form and context-specific, and are usually bench-marked based on proportionality of working age population. It is important to understand that targets are not the same as quotas – quotas can unintentionally induce people to ‘positively’ discriminate, which is unlawful.
We recommend making a clear distinction between monitoring data for diversity characteristics, and how you use that data to inform decisions about hiring and progression. Monitoring data is essential for building an evidence base and assessing progress; but anyone disclosing their diversity characteristics should be reassured that the information they share will not impact on any decisions made about their individual appointment or progression.
If you are publicly funded, you will already be reporting your HR data to Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and other funders. Include your socio-economic background data and advocate that it is taken as seriously as protected characteristics in support of a more diverse and inclusive arts sector.
Transparency is vital. It will help you to understand how you compare with others and it will help to benchmark change across the sector. So, once you have data monitoring in place, publish your findings, alongside the practical actions that you are taking to advance socio-economic diversity and inclusion.