Friday 18 September 2015

Women in Charity

One of the great advantages of a leaders’ network like ACEVO is the opportunity to network with other CEOs. That’s why ACEVO has always had such strong events and conference programmes. And we have always been aware of the need to ensure a strong regional presence and a programme that recognises diversity.

I’m rather proud of the fact that ACEVO has run a Women CEOs Summit for a number of years now. I don’t know of any other umbrella that has something similar to offer. We know that gender equality is rather a long way off and there are too few women CEOs in top national charity jobs (according to ACEVO’s most recent Pay Survey, only 25% of charities with a turnover of £15m or more have a female CEO).

This year’s Summit, kindly sponsored by RBS, has a rather stellar line up and a mega booking for it. It features a line-up ranging from Stella Creasy MP to chiefs at the Department for Education, Women’s Aid and Girlguiding UK. The Summit has been so popular that we are now fully booked and are running a waiting list!

The speakers will consider how women leaders should respond to a challenging climate for women and women’s services. They will also be talking about how women leaders can find a leadership style which works for them and how we can inspire the next generation of young women leaders. ACEVO’s policy and projects officer Lauren Kelly has been of huge help organising this year’s summit so I thought I’d include a few words from her with her take. She writes:

“This year’s Summit comes at a time of significant challenges and opportunities for women in the UK. Austerity has hit women particularly hard. Women have been disproportionately affected by staffing cuts in central government, local authorities, and the NHS as they make up the majority of public sector workforce.

Meanwhile, the combined force of tax credit cuts, reductions in housing benefit, and the three-year inflation freeze in child benefit month has weakened their safety net. According to the Fawcett Society, £22bn of the £26bn saved from welfare reform since 2010 has come from women’s pockets. As women still tend to be the primary carers for children and for frail older people, cuts to services hit them harder than men.

There has been slow progress in other key areas of inequality such as violence against women and under-representation in Westminster and other seats of power. Leaders of young people’s services tell me they are deeply concerned about the increasing pressure on young women to look a certain way and sexual inequality amongst young people.

The UK has seen a flourishing of equality activism, which some are labelling the ‘fourth wave’ of British feminism. Women – and many men – have taken to the streets to protest against sexist policies with respect to female representation, sexual violence, housing, immigration, news coverage, and even bank notes, amongst other things.

The result has been cross-political acknowledgement that number of women in government and in top positions across private, public, and third sectors is unacceptable and more women willing to speak up against casual sexism. To build upon this momentum, we need only to keep pushing and to harness the current public and media interest in women’s issues. I hope that attendees at this year’s ACEVO Women CEOs Summit will come away inspired to raise their voices.”

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