Members of some of the industry’s leading charities and organisations gathered together on Friday at RHS Garden Wisley to hear the initial results of an industry-wide Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) survey.
Following the signing of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Charter for the Horticulture, Arboriculture, Landscaping & Garden Media at FutureScape last year, signatories have created a survey to provide a baseline figure for the diversity of the industry.
So far, findings from the survey – which is still open for the industry to complete – show that the majority (36.4%) of the respondents are aged 45-54 and just over a quarter (25.7%) are aged between 55-64. Those aged 25-34 make up just 12.5% of respondents and less than 5% are aged 16-24.
Around 70% identify as female and 29% as male, whilst 8.5% consider themselves to have a disability according to the definition in the Equality Act 2010.
The results raised more questions than answers though, says Adrian Wickham, vice-chair of the British Association of Landscape Industries and one of those who spearheaded the charter. For instance, with 31% saying they are the primary caregiver for a child and 8.6% caring for someone with long-term physical or mental ill health caused by disability or age (not in a paid capacity) for one to 19 hours a week, Wickham asked whether we’re flexible enough towards those with these responsibilities.
The survey is not the only way in which signatories are “keeping the conversation going” after the Access All Areas panel discussion at the end of 2021 which first sparked the creation of the charter. The group of signatories has hired an independent consultant, Gamiel Yafai, who is the founder of Diversity Marketplace, to help drive their strategy.
“It’s still a journey, we’re still learning, and I think that our charter group is one thing we can do for the industry where we can learn together and share good practice and share knowledge,” says Wickham.
The Royal Horticultural Society also shared its EDI goals. Mo Kebbay, head of diversity, inclusion & wellbeing and a member of the charter group, said the organisation is looking at diversity “holistically and broadly” to also include non-visible differences, such as sexual orientation, social class, non-visible disabilitiesand age.
Its Diversity & Inclusion Plan, called ‘Becoming Inclusive by Instinct’, aims for 14% of employees and 10% of those in leadership positions to be ethnic minority by 2030. It has also set an internal goal of 10% disabled employees and 10% LGBT+ employees over the same period.
In order to do this, it has set four strategic pillars, one of which is to recruit and maintain a diverse workforce and talent pipeline, which involves the RHS looking at its approach to recruitment. It has launched a steering group “to hold us accountable,” says Kebbay.
On top of this, the RHS has its New Shoots initiative, launched just over a year ago to tackle the skills shortage and increase the diversity of those entering the sector. Through engagement with schools and community groups, it hopes to attract people to a career in horticulture. Since it began programme activity in February, horticultural engagement manager Lisa Peter says it has increased placements for over 18s in the curatorial teams at Wisley by 267%, compared to last year.
New Shoots is being piloted at the RHS gardens Wisley and Bridgewater, with the RHS hoping to roll it out across all five of its gardens next year. Its goal is for 20% of its programme participants – be these on taster events, work experience programmes or volunteering – to be from underrepresented groups by 2025.
“New Shoots is trying to create a pathway, and really signpost people towards opportunities to have a slightly deeper engagement with the RHS and be in a position to make an informed decision on whether horticulture is what they would to continue as a career,” Peter told the audience at the new RHS Hilltop building at Wisley. “We’re giving people chances, not jobs” to showcase opportunities in hope that they will join the workforce.