Top 100 fundraising charities 'missing' 20 female fundraising directors, report says

A paper produced for the Institute of Fundraising says women miss out on leadership positions, face sector-wide barriers to progression and experience a 14 per cent pay gap

Women in fundraising are missing out on leadership positions and experience systemic and sector-wide barriers to progression in their careers, according to a report by the Institute of Fundraising.

The report, Understanding the Female Leadership Gap in Fundraising, published today, reveals that although men and women in fundraising generally start on the same salaries, a gap develops over time so that men later on in their careers report earnings that are 14.3 per cent higher than those of women.

And it says that the top 100 fundraising charities are “missing” 20 female fundraising directors when the size of the female workforce is compared with the number of women in leadership positions.

The study, carried out by Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, and Elizabeth J Dale, assistant professor in non-profit leadership at Seattle University, surveyed 790 female and male fundraisers, carried out focus groups with 15 women and did interviews with six female fundraising leaders.

The report says 76 per cent of fundraisers in the UK are women, but “the dominance of women in the fundraising ranks is not equally reflected in fundraising leadership positions” because, among the top 100 UK fundraising charities, only 52 have female fundraising directors.

“Assuming – as we do – that talent is equally spread across the genders, this means there are more than 20 women missing from the leadership roles in the 100 biggest (and, arguably, most prestigious) charities,” the report says.

The main barrier preventing women from moving into leadership, the report says, is a lack of flexibility in relation to hours and working patterns. It also identifies a lack of sector initiatives to support women with leadership ambitions.

According to the report, female fundraisers are far more likely than men to report experiences of gender stereotyping, particularly from board members and donors, while men who report stereotyping say it comes from colleagues.

In a statement, Dale said it was “troubling” that gender stereotyping continued to be so prevalent.

“This research calls on the entire sector, and society more broadly, not only to recognise women’s talent and leadership ambition, but also to rethink how to address tensions between work and family and create additional supports so that more women can obtain leadership roles,” she said.

According to the report, women also experience a lack of recognition of their health needs or policies to deal with them.

The survey asked fundraisers what their starting salary had been and for details of their current salaries.

Initial salaries were roughly the same for both men and women, with women earning on average slightly more (£21,183, compared with £20,032 for men). But data on current salaries show a gap has opened up, with men earning £49,776 on average, compared with an average of £42,665 for women, which is 14.3 per cent less.

The report calls for charities to invest in promoting and recruiting a more diverse set of trustees and senior managers to create more role models, educate trustees about gender stereotyping, investigate their gender pay gaps and consider how they could create more flexible working environments.

It says the Institute of Fundraising needs to promote and celebrate female role models, lead a mentorship initiative with a particular emphasis on women and under-represented populations who aspire to leadership positions, provide career planning tools to members, and proactively participate in policy discussions on issues that disproportionately affect women’s workplace conditions.

The report adds that the IoF should commission further research on how age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation could be holding back talented fundraisers.

It recommends that female fundraisers consider making formal career plans, ask about flexible working opportunities when applying for new jobs, take opportunities to network, mentor and be mentored, and consider serving as trustees themselves.

Breeze said in a statement that she hoped the recommendations were taken seriously by those who wanted to strengthen the fundraising profession.

“Clearly, the current career ladders in fundraising are not supporting all of the talented people who aspire to reach leadership roles,” she said.

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