On 15 September, Coaching at Work hosted a landmark event at which eight professional bodies pledged to ‘stand against racism’. Liz Hall reports

Some of the world’s leading professional coaching bodies have publicly pledged to “stand against racism” and to continue to explore contributing and collaborating to address racism in the profession.

At a landmark event organised and hosted by Coaching at Work, representatives from eight professional coaching bodies pledged to collectively ‘stand against racism’ – not as ‘mere tokenism’ and committed to ongoing dialogue to explore how best to contribute and collaborate, including around harvesting learning and sharing best practice.

The event on 15 September was the first time the professional bodies had gathered at a roundtable on the topic of racism in coaching.

The bodies represented, who signed a shared statement of intent, were:

  • The Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS)
  • The Association for Coaching (AC – Global & UK)
  • The Association of Coaching Supervisors (AoCS)
  • The British Psychology Society Division of Coaching Psychology (BPS DoCP) – formerly the Special Group of Coaching Psychology
  • Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA)
  •  The European Mentoring and Coaching Council UK (EMCC UK)
  • The International Coaching Federation (ICF Global & UK)
  • The International Society for Coaching Psychology (ISCP)

In the rich and nuanced conversation, themes discussed included:

  • The importance of this landmark event, signalling that all those bodies represented collectively stand against racism in the coaching profession
  •  Unanimous agreement to continue the dialogue:

– To explore and share best practice
– Committing to further exploration and work on the issue of racism and lack of equity in coaching

Exploring how the professional bodies can contribute in this space and collaborate

  • What needs to be in place in professional body communities to help the under-represented have a voice – to be able to express themselves, and to be represented?
  • What more needs to be done so that the coaching community, including the professional bodies, becomes more representative of the societies in which coaches work?
  • Vulnerability is key, and accepting that working to address this issue includes making mistakes, saying sorry, and learning what to do differently
  • For some, the issue may be less about tackling racism than increasing equity (eg, access to food, to training and education) – context is important
  • Professional bodies will not just sit on the sidelines, they have an active role to play
  • The importance of avoiding mere tokenism, of being practical.

Comments from attendees included:

  • “Working to understand what it means to do more in the space of diversity, inclusion and belonging and how we encourage more under-represented people to share their thoughts and start dialogue and debate. We realised (in one professional body) we didn’t perhaps have the right mechanisms to (make it easy for people to) express themselves and represent themselves.”
  • “What more do we need to do to get better representation of coaches who are more representative of the societies in which we work?”
  • “I find it a huge challenge to put together a diverse group. As the coaching profession, we’re not very diverse, especially when I looked around UK conferences – rooms of white coaches…or on the boards of professional bodies”
  • “Equity in access to coach training is an example of a barrier because not everybody can afford it”
  • “Some coachees don’t want ethnic minority coaches”
  • “Rather than racism in my community, I see majority versus minority voice”
  • “(it’s about) making blunders, saying sorry, finding out what we can do differently….”
  • “It’s about finding a way to collaborate and be clearer on how we can inform and influence our profession. We are diverse, but are we inclusive? It’s not OK to do nothing”
  • “Great opportunity to network and share best practice across the professional bodies”
  • “What are the views of the racist? What are they wanting? What are they looking for? In a truly inclusive environment (how might we include them)?”
  • “the topic (racism) we all feel important (here) isn’t important in certain areas. In Kenya, for example, some Kenyan leaders say the priority isn’t to do with race, but (tackling) hunger: equity around food rather than ethnicity….our value (as professional bodies) is to help others navigate the complexity, and filter and prioritise, rather than mandating anything.”


  • Jeannette Marshall (AC Global, and also representing AC UK)
  • Felicia Lauw (AoCS)
  • Barbara St Claire-Ostwald (APECS)
  • Jonathan Passmore (BPS DoCP)
  • Colleen Qvist (COMENSA)
  • Rachael Hanley-Browne (EMCC UK)
  • Imtiyaz Foolat (UK ICF)
  • Tracy Sinclair (ICF Global)
  • Siobhain O’Riordan (ISCP)
  • Liz Hall (editor of Coaching at Work)

A roundup of what the bodies are up to

Professional body initiatives around diversity, inclusion and belonging include:

  • AC: Podcasts from people of colour and on diversity generally; listening tour with members to find out what the key topics are to do with diversity and inclusion that they want to be addressed; starting a special interest group on neuro-diversity
  • AoCS: Plans to hold regular reflective spaces/workshops for supervisors to build awareness around the topic of diversity and inclusion
  • APECS: Working group for inclusion and diversity headed by Barbara St Claire-Ostwald which put together a positioning statement for APECS’ members and scheduled a year’s worth of webinars on inclusion and diversity in the APECS events calendar. for the entire years with diversity and inclusion webinars. Its Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Working Group – a one-year joint venture with board members – is already coming up with interesting thoughts and initiatives
  • EMCC: Has launched a series of listening circles among its members to pilot a programme on diversity, inclusion and belonging. It’s also including more blogs on this area, and is paying closer attention to recruitment and succession planning through this lens
  • ICF: ICF Global has been exploring this topic via its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Task Force, chaired by Tracy Sinclair