Are Most Facilitators White, College-Educated Women?
Despite a recent international survey, I do not think so. This is why.
SessionLab recently released the outcome of the first comprehensive survey on the practice of facilitation, the State of Facilitation 2023. Are most facilitators white, college-educated women? The survey leads us to believe this to be the case. I don’t think so. This is why.
Despite this growing interest, there is not much data on who facilitators are, how they learned their trade, and what tools and methods they use. With this yearly report, we bring our contribution to filling that gap.
In 2022 the global facilitation community was generous enough to provide over 1100 responses to this first-ever survey on the state of facilitation.
Overall, facilitators are a highly educated cohort (90% having completed higher education degrees).
62.5 % of respondents described their gender as a woman. 34.2 identified as a man. Only 4.4% preferred not to say or identify as other.
69.9 percent identified as being White or Caucasian. Asian or Asian American (9.2%), Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin (8.6%), and Black or African American (5.5%) rounded out the top 4. In total, this top 4 represents 94% of all facilitators.
Respondents were asked to identify four roles that described what they did in their jobs. Over 50% described their role as either (or both) Facilitator and Consultant, over 30% as Trainer / Learning & Development and Coach, and nearly 20% of respondents as Teacher / Educator, Learning Designer.
A mere 2% identified themselves as engineers (or some other form of technology-trained professional).
Key Survey Conclusion
The main profile, in short, would be a white (70%) middle-aged (61%) college-educated (90%) woman (63%) from North America and Western & Northern Europe (58%).
Not So Fast
Of the over 1100 respondents, only 9% come from Asia, 7% from Oceania, and 7% from Africa.
- The sample might have stayed close to those working on the study.
- Facilitators acting in their local communities might have missed the existence of an international study.
- “Facilitator” is becoming familiar in English but not so well-known for those speaking Romance languages.
Technically Trained Professionals
The survey aligns with much of what I have experienced in the wild with facilitation. Most technically trained professionals are highly educated in their specialties (hard skills) but lack formal training in people-related (soft) skills. For those who specialize in facilitation, at best, we work as part of small groups; at worst, we are lone wolfs.
In my experience, in technical fields, the gender alignment matches closely with that of the given industry. There are indeed more men than women facilitating in technical fields and are therefore under-represented in the survey. However, as the survey states, in many technical fields, those facilitating (or their organizations) do not recognize facilitation as one of their primary roles.
Facilitating with FINESSE
Facilitation, or guiding a group to solutions that are created, understood, and accepted by all, is under-emphasized as a craft by most technically trained professionals.
Visit the JD Solomon Inc guest blog for more insights and my perspective on the SessionLab State of Facilitation 2023. Visit the not-for-profit community, Communicating with FINESSE, for ways to be a better communicator and facilitator.
The numbers and the related commentary on the survey come directly from the SessionLab report. Read the report for more information, insights, and inspiration.