New index to map number of women in charity leadership

Written by Andrew Holt

A new index to benchmark the number of women in leadership roles in the UK’s largest charities has been launched by the Home Secretary.

The index is the first of its kind and complements the work being done in the private sector to boost the number of women on boards, which is measured every year by the Cranfield Female FTSE report.

The Women Count: Charity leaders 2012 report shows women are thriving in the voluntary sector, with 32 per cent of directors of the UK’s top 100 charities female when the organisations are ranked by income.

That is double the 15.8 per cent of women on the boards of FTSE 100 firms in the private sector. The report also found 17 per cent of charities are chaired by women, compared to just one per cent of FTSE 100 companies.

However, the index shows that men still lead the vast majority of charities and calls for further action to promote women to the highest level and to improve diversity.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said: “I am delighted to see so many talented women running our charities. While this first report is encouraging, more still needs to be done to help women reach the top and unleash their full economic potential.

“This index is an important step. I hope it inspires even more progress in the voluntary sector and encourages corporate firms to follow suit and draw on this impressive pool of talent.”

Women make up two thirds of the work force in the voluntary sector and more than half of all charity donors, so it is vital they are represented in their leadership.

Organisations who have a better mix of men and women in charge have also been found to perform better.

The annual ‘Women Count’ index will encourage greater gender diversity. It is designed to act as a catalyst for change in the same way that Lord Davies’ work on the number of women on boards has lead to progress in the private sector.

The report draws attention to the large pool of female talent in the voluntary sector and supports Lord Davies recommendation that firms look outside the corporate world to find women for their boards.

It makes a number of recommendations for charities to improve their diversity, including that they make balancing their boards a priority and review and report on their progress.

Women Count founder and report author Norma Jarboe OBE said:“Charities and their leadership matter greatly to society. They provide a vital service and are key economic players with combined incomes of £56 billion.

“Men hold the vast majority of chair, chief executive and trustee positions in the UK’s largest charities. I hope the Women Count Index will inspire better gender balance in their leadership and encourage change.

“I also hope the private and public sectors will be inspired to appoint female charity leaders to their boards, in the same way that world-leading companies in the US have long benefited from doing.”

The Home Secretary announced the new index while speaking at an event hosted by investment bank Nomura to promote the female talent pipeline.

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