Women excel in the third sector

The proportion of women in top-level positions in the voluntary sector is twice as high as the equivalent figure for the rest of the economy, research has revealed.

Agenda Consulting's latest People Count report shows women account for 43 per cent of senior management positions in the charity sector. The equivalent figure for the private and public sectors is 22 per cent.

The proportion of female managers at all levels is also much higher in the third sector than in the rest of the economy. Among charities and voluntary organisations, 60 per cent of managers are women; in the rest of the UK economy, the figure is 37 per cent.

Of the 223 voluntary organisations that took part in the research, 33 per cent have female chief executives.

Roger Parry, director of Agenda Consulting, said the figures could be interpreted in two ways. "You could say that it means the glass ceiling is coming down in the sector," he said. "But you could look at it the other way, which is that 70 per cent of the workforce in the sector is female but only 43 per cent of senior managers are women."

Rachel Whale, founder of Third Sector Women, which supports and promotes women in senior positions in the sector, said additional research was needed to provide more information on the movement of women between jobs in the sector.

"It would be interesting to see whether women are progressing within the sector or whether they have come in from other sectors," she said. "No matter how low the proportions are in other sectors, it should not affect how we set our standards."

Maria Aguilar, director of the human resources consultancy HR Services Partnership, said: "Organisations in the sector tend to recruit for middle and senior management positions from within the organisations themselves and the sector.

"As more women tend to hold these posts, this has the effect of placing more women in senior management positions."


Only 5.2 per cent of third sector managers are from ethnic minorities. The UK average is 8 per cent.

The sector spends 20 per cent less on training than the private sector.

Only 16 per cent of charities and voluntary organisations carry out career planning for employees. For the UK economy as a whole, the equivalent figure is 48 per cent.

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