Over the years, we have worked with many third sector clients running charities and social enterprises. While working with these great clients, we began to notice a trend. In this blog we’ll discuss female leadership in charities and the third sector.

Women make up about two-thirds (65%) of the voluntary sector, and although there are more men working in the sector each year, it remains female dominated. The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations’ annual survey, published in January, reviewed 473 chief executives of top charities and found that women outnumbered men for the first time, holding 58% of the senior roles.

These findings point to an increase in the number of women CEOs in the sector as well as some improvement in the gender pay gap. Although the proportion of female trustees has also risen, from 36% in 2014 to 40% four years later, there is still gender disparity at board level. A Charity Job diversity survey confirmed this with some charity workers who revealed that “on our board we have 55% men and 45% women, among our staff we have 75% women and 25% men.” So, where is the female leadership in charities? Why are there more men at board level, when there are more women working in these organisations?

gender equality

We spoke to two CEOs – Marie Ward, from Cranhill Development Trust, and Tricia McConalogue, from Bridging the Gap – to see how accurately they felt these figures represented their own experience in the third sector around Glasgow.

Marie found that her personal experience with boards in the third sector pointed to more women occupying senior-level roles than men, however on reflection she pointed out that she’d noticed changes in the way women were joining the third sector in the last few years: “Women tend to progress through organisations, sometimes starting as volunteers and become staff and ending up in a leadership role. They’re coming straight in now in leadership roles. For me, looking around, I definitely see an improvement. Things are changing.”

Tricia’s experience matched the findings of this survey, in that she has observed more men than women occupying board positions. She thought this imbalance may be due to issues that are traditionally seen to be faced more by women than men; such as concerns relating to childcare, and fear of going out at night alone. She suggested that changing the times of board meetings would make board positions a lot more accessible.

Interestingly, Marie reported that boards she is a member of always meet in the morning, during school hours. As Marie’s experience has been of a comparatively larger number of women in board positions and female leadership in charities, it may be that such a seemingly simple change can make real improvements to women’s access to such positions.

equal leadership within the third sector

5 faceless co-workers bump fists over their desk in a show of solidarity

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap aims to enable people to meet across divides which can inhibit building of community including; the transition from primary to secondary schooling, integration of refugees and asylum seekers, black and minority ethnics and indigenous local people. Building relationships across diversity is at the core of their work.

Cranhill Development Trust

The Cranhill Development Trust aims to provide person-centred, responsive support services which are inclusive and are not age or gender specific. They focus on a community development and regeneration approach that aims to build and increases capacity within the community. They run a range of programmes with the main activities focusing around work to support employment, welcome and integrate refugees and asylum seekers, and increase wellbeing and community cohesion.