Forum for female leaders

Indira Das-Gupta

Frustration over the gender pay gap and a shortage of women leaders in the sector has prompted a former charity worker to set up a forum for aspiring and existing female chief executives.

Rachel Whale, chief executive of Vanilla, an agency specialising in personnel development, worked in the sector for 15 years.

The forum, Third Sector Women, has grown by word of mouth to consist of about 60 female sector managers, many of whom attended a preliminary meeting in London yesterday.

The launch of the group follows a recent Acevo survey showing that men in the sector are still paid 10 per cent more than women.

"Most of the third sector workforce is female, but the majority of chief executives are men," said Whale. "A lot of women are leaders of smaller charities, but in organisations with turnovers of about £100m, female chief executives tend to be helicoptered in from other sectors.

"One of the biggest challenges will be redesigning top jobs to make them more flexible."

Whale added that the forum would provide coaching opportunities and allow women from smaller organisations to pool resources.

"Nearly all the women I have spoken to have said that some of their worst experiences of being managed were by women," she said. "Too many seem to think that they have to be macho.

"Existing organisations for women tend to be for chief executives, so you have to be in the club to take part."

It is likely that the forum will charge a membership fee, which will fund research to improve understanding of women's experiences.

Whale hopes that the group, which she wants to launch officially next year, will establish international connections.


10% - The amount by which the average salary for men exceeds the average salary for women

23% - The pay gap between men and women working in charities in 2001

20% of female chief executives run organisations with more than 100 staff, compared with 32% of men

Source: Acevo.

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