So, before I started looking into it I didn’t really know much about Diversify. I knew that it supported people from BME (black, minority, ethnic) backgrounds into Museum employment and I knew it provided those people with an MA in a Museum related subject. Did I think that Diversify was the solution to workforce diversity in the Museum Sector? No. After reading the recent MA report saying that BME staff are still underrepresented after a twelve year development programme I was decided. I started to look into Diversify. I had a few issues with Diversify.
Number one was that the majority of the original intake had already considered a career in museums before they saw the advert for Diversify and 14 out of the 30 had volunteering experience in a museum. I understand the barriers that some of these people may have faced when it came to getting a paid job, but I still think it would have been interesting to see where these people would have ended up without Diversify. Something tells me that if they had already considered a career in the sector and some of them had volunteering experience in the sector then some of them would have ended up working in a Museum. It got me thinking, in 1993 when 2.5% of staff working in museums was minority ethnic, how many minority ethnic people were out there wanting but failing to find work in a museum? Probably the same representational amount as White British people. Maybe the problem isn’t minority ethnic people finding a job after studying its supporting minority ethnic people to be inspired to think of the museums sector as a career choice at a younger age.
Number two is that The Diversity Evaluation Report states that a few respondents had previously thought about a career in museums but ‘had been put off by the need for voluntary experience when faced with large student debts after graduating. Diversify was a way round this problem’. To me this is not a diversity problem; it’s a sector wide problem.
Number three is that now Diversify has finished, the MA ‘hope that UK museums are now at a stage where workforce diversification can be integrated into museum policy as a matter of course’. Really? So after twelve years and with minority ethnic people still unrepresented, museums are ready to do this when only 113 ethnic minority people and a small amount of museums have been involved? The programme was led by a policy maker, not museums. Where is the transition? There is a Diversify toolkit which is a detailed guide on creating positive action traineeships in your own organisations but what is its use if this framework has not worked over the past 12 years?
I think supporting a positive action traineeship in your own organisation is worthwhile. There are many benefits for both you and the trainee, but I would suggest these traineeships could be offered to people leaving school or after 16-18 year old education. Capture their imagination before they leave school and give them the opportunity to do something that they had never considered.