The Archives & Records Association (UK & Ireland) seeks to ensurethat its membership, the holdings that archives acquire and manage, andthe users whom we serve reflect the diversity of our society.

In 2014-2015, the ARA collaborated with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) on a workforce mapping project in the wider information sector (including archives and records management). The partners commissioned Edinburgh Napier University to carry out the data collection, collation and presentation in report form, which they published in 2016 (a summary of which can be found here).

This report remains the most comprehensive assessment of its kind on the sector in the UK and Ireland, and probably anywhere in the world. Among other things, the report identified:

  • A significant gender pay gap;
  • Women dominating the workforce, but under-represented in senior management;
  • Low ethnic diversity:
  • 97.7% of those working in ‘archives’ are white;
  • 97.8% of those working in ‘records’ are white.

In order to develop a better understanding of previous research and projects that had the notional aim achieving a more diverse representation in the record keeping workforce, in 2018 the ARA Board commissioned Tola Dabiri Consulting to undertake a literature and project review of such activities and policies.

The findings of Tola’s review can be accessed here showing that previous research and projects can be divided into three broad areas:

  • hand wringing – identifying (and re-identifying) problems but offering nothing more than ‘something must be done’;
  • hand washing – listing some attempted interventions, often as a tick-box approach, ‘this is what we have tried’;
  • DIY – this is how you might do it (top-down fashion) – oh, and we’re not going to give you any resources, or ‘this is how you can do it’.

However, none of these approaches have produced any sustained change or significant increase in diversity and gender equality in the record keeping, libraries and museum workforce. There is very little evidence to suggest that the diversity or gender equality research or projects developed have involved or cooperated with communities themselves, eg Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups or women’s groups or people with disabilities and/or others, in any meaningful way at all.

The report includes important recommendations for the sector on moving away from ‘hand wringing’, ‘hand washing’ and ‘DIY’ towards sustained systematic change, including using Archives Service Accreditation processes to drive change, and widening entry routes into the sector.

The ARA is already working with The National Archives (UK) on developing Level 7 apprenticeships for recordkeepers. We are also keen to explore with Accreditation partners how equality and diversity targets could be properly embedded in Archives Service Accreditation. As Tola herself says: “there needs to be less carrot and more stick”.