The Association Diversity Challenge
Diversity for many associations is still a challenge, particularly for those who represent traditionally male-dominated sectors.
Traditional associations derive their activists, volunteers and often their staff teams from their members, with individuals often moving to and from associations and their member businesses.
The diversity of an association therefore often reflects the diversity of their sector.
In many ways this is inevitable. Associations need to be experts in their sectors, they need to understand how it works both in detail and in practice. They need to understand all the nooks and crannies, the people, the culture and the industry politics too.
So, in many ways, associations need to overcompensate with their focus on diversity, encouraging unrepresented groups to participate in the association, and also actively seeking diverse candidates into appropriate roles.
The current labour market has proved challenging on this front, our member benchmarking survey published in November last year, showed that associations are struggling to recruit, and are concerned about retaining talent.
The Trade Association Forum as the ‘association of associations’ wants to play our part as well.
We exist to bring members together, develop communities and encourage the sharing of best practice. There are some great examples of associations leading the way to encourage their sectors to be more diverse. Including the two associations shortlisted for ‘Diversity Initiative of the Year’ for this year’s Trade Associations Awards:
- The British Beer and Pub Association launched the first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Charter for breweries and pubs; a sector-wide commitment to embed practices throughout members’ businesses from boardroom to the bar.
- RenewableUK launched a Switch List, an industry-sourced list of women in the industry specialists in their field, ready and able to participate in panels, be speakers, keynotes or roundtable representatives. The list is open-access and for use by the whole energy industry and trade bodies to ensure that there can never be the excuse that ‘there aren’t any women who know about this topic’.
These are great initiatives that we are proud to celebrate with our awards, but we want to use our platform to highlight other stories as well.
This is why we have launched a new initiative with the FSB and the CBI to celebrate women in Associations. We are building the Women in Trade Association Powerlist to publish on International Women’s Day, and bringing together for the first time inspirational women from across the sector to act as a demonstration of the incredible female talent we are lucky enough to have. To coin a phrase, “You can’t be it if you can’t see it.”
We also want to encourage associations to attract and recruit from a wider pool of candidates, which is why we are working to promote associations as a great place to grow and develop your career. We are currently reviewing our training and development offer, and working with our recruitment partners Membership Bespoke and Ellwood Atfield to develop best practice around recruitment and retention.
We are also working with other partners including the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to build networks of PR and Public Affairs and communications professionals in associations to champion the work that they do.
In the future, we think that TAF should be the place where anyone working in or looking to work in an association goes when they need professional support and advice about how to build and develop their career in Associations.
You can play your part too.
Nominate your inspirational women in association by the 6th February: