Women 'are under-represented in leadership roles' in top UK charities

An index by the not-for-profit company Women Count finds that only 17 per cent of the top 100 charities by income have female chairs

Women Count published the index
Women Count published the index

Women are under-represented in leadership roles among top charities, according to an index published today by the not-for-profit company Women Count.

The index, Women Count: Charity Leaders 2012, to be compiled annually, measures the number of female leaders in the top 100 charities, both by assets and by income.

The index, which was launched last night by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says that of the top 100 charities by income only 17 per cent have female chairs. This figure falls to 9 per cent for the top 100 charities by assets.

The report says that among the largest charities by income only 32 per cent of board members are female. This figure is 27 per cent among the largest charities by assets.

Women Count says that four charities out of the top 100 by income have no female trustees, and another five have only one. Among the top 100 charities by assets, 12 have no female trustees; another 12 have only one female trustee.

Only 25 per cent of top charities by income have female chief executives. And only 17 per cent of top charities by assets have female chief executives.

The report says that this still compares very favourably with FTSE 250 companies, where only 2.4 per cent of chairs, 9.4 per cent of board members and 4 per cent of chief executives are women.

Figures in the NCVO’s UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac of last year showed that in 2010 68 per cent of the voluntary sector workforce was female.

Women Count recommends several measures to increase the percentage of women in top roles in charities, including setting aspirational goals for balanced boards, making diversity an organisational priority, recruiting trustees through open and transparent processes and looking at governing documents to ensure they do not create bias in the recruitment of trustees.

Norma Jarboe, founder of Women Count and author of the report, said: "Men hold the vast majority of chair, chief executive and trustee positions in the UK’s largest charities. I hope the 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 index was based on a survey of charities’ annual reports carried out between 26 March and 2 April. The charities surveyed are either registered with the Charity Commission or classified as charities exempt from registration.

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