Governor Stories – Encouraging diversity on school governing boards

Louise Cooper
Louise Cooper
This guest post is written by Louise Cooper, CEO of Governors for Schools. In the last 5 years they have placed over 10,000 volunteers on governing bodies.

Diverse governing boards mean more robust debate, better decision making, and improved educational outcomes for children. In the last five years, 49% of the governors placed by Governors for Schools were female. 68% were under 45 years old, and 21% were from BAME backgrounds.  This sounds more diverse than a lot of the stats we hear – so why have we launched Governor Stories – a campaign dedicated to encouraging diversity?

Governor Stories celebrates the diversity of people who volunteer as school governors. By sharing their stories, we wanted to show that there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ governor.

But what effect do diverse boards have on schools, volunteers, and children? We delved deeper into the data to find out.

 

Does diversity result in better performance?

Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 33% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, according to a 2018 McKinsey study of more than 1000 public companies. Those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

It follows that schools should benefit in the same way, as it was explained that “There are clear and compelling hypotheses for why this relationship [between diversity and performance] persists – including improved access to talent, enhanced decision making and depth of consumer insight, and strengthened employee engagement and license to operate.” 

 

Gender, age and ethnicity on governing boards

Gender

School governing boards are performing well in terms of female representation compared to other sectors. Governors for Schools data shows that placed governors are equal from a gender perspective. The NGA/TES 2018 survey shows a female governor population of 61%2.  However, this drops to 42% when it comes to Chairs of MATs.

Female representation on governing boards means governors can influence – and help rectify – the gender imbalance highly visible in certain professions and in positions of senior leadership.

Nadia from Newcastle told us that:

“Most people can’t believe I’m an engineer. I’m one of three girls in my office. We’ve battled through an education system that’s told us we’re female so we can’t be engineers. I became a governor because I wanted to make sure opportunities were there for everyone, no matter what their situation – especially when it comes to encouraging girls to take on STEM subjects.”

Governors can make sure that girls have the same opportunities as boys to explore areas traditionally considered ‘male’ – thus tackling the gender imbalance from an early age.

 

Age

We’ve been successful at encouraging mid-career professionals to become governors, challenging the stereotype that governors are often older businesspeople. But the 68% of our placed governors who are under 45 don’t reflect the governor population as a whole.

The NGA/TES survey highlighted that approximately 10% of governors across England are under 40. Trustees in the charity sector are in a similar position, with a third being under 505.

Boards need to include young people to bring perspective – especially when it comes to issues that affect them. Our young governors described the value they bring to their boards. Cecilia from London says:

“Most people think I’m quite young to be a governor. I’ve been able to provide a perspective on the board that has influenced decisions by making other governors aware of the specific challenges young people in the area face, in terms of their relationships not just with education, but with the local community too.”

 

Ethnicity

13% of the working population in England have a BAME background. Green Park found that 8.1% of the top 100 charity trustees are BAME, with 7% of the leadership in the FTSE 1003.  The NGA/TES survey respondents showed 7% of governors are BAME; yet 21% of Governors for Schools’ placed governors have a BAME background.  So the school sector is broadly on a par with other sectors, with much work needed to broaden the ethnic intake of governors.  The Governors for Schools data is influenced by a weighting towards London.

Teresa, a governor at a school in Romford, spoke about her motivations for taking on the role:

 Children and young adults need to be inspired early on in their lives. They need to see people from their backgrounds in all walks of life, and at all levels

“When I was at school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I grew up. I didn’t have many role models that inspired me. There were big international figures like Nelson Mandela and Oprah, but none that I could relate to locally. Children and young adults need to be inspired early on in their lives. They need to see people from their backgrounds in all walks of life, and at all levels.”

Teresa’s first-hand account highlights the fact that diverse governing boards act as one way of giving children role models they can relate to – improving their confidence, employability, and chances of success.

 

So how is the school sector doing when it comes to diversity?

While the school sector compares favourably to others on gender, we still have work to do to when it comes to age and ethnicity. We want to ensure that every governing board has access to the right skills, and a broad range of perspectives and experiences. This will improve decision making, standards of performance and education for children across the country.

 

Help make the difference

Follow and share the Governor Stories campaign. Across 32 stories, there will be a governor here whose story resonates with someone you know. Encourage them to apply for the role today.

 

 

References

  1. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
  2. School Governance in 2018 – an annual survey – NGA / TES
  3. Green Park Leadership 2000, 2018 – https://green-park.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/GP-2K-Leadership-2018-Low-res.pdf
  4. https://30percentclub.org/
  5. A Breath of Fresh Air, Young People as Charity Trustees, Charity Commission, 2009.

 

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