Women make up a third of trustees at top-100 charities

The numbers of female trustees on the boards of top 100 charities has grown by 10 per cent since 2011 – so women now occupy 34 per cent of board positions.

This progress has become a genuine upward trend  as the number of Charity 100 Index boards with no women on them has halved from six in 2011 to just three this year – Islamic Relief Worldwide, Leverhulme Trust and Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance.

However, female representation among chairs of the largest charities remains stubbornly low. Just 14 of the Charity 100 Index chairs are women – a slight improvement on 12 in 2011, but a fall from 17 last year.

Nonetheless, the charity sector still outperforms the private sector on both board representation and chairs. Just 17.3 per cent of board seats at FTSE 100 companies are held by women and just one of the chairs is female.

civilsociety.co.uk reports that several charities had deliberately set out to increase the proportion of women on their boards, though all stressed that this was secondary to getting the right skill-sets. General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, chair of SSAFA, said: “The increase of women on our board has been by design, not by accident.

“But I would not accept someone who is not of the right quality simply because they met some sort of quota.”

The UK government recently passed a law requiring all listed companies to declare the numbers of women on their boards, in senior management positions and in the company as a whole, from 1 October. Quotas are probably not the ideal way forward  – the Non Executive & Trustee Insight Report 2013, recently published by NonExecHub, showed that the obstacles to become Trustees and Non Exec Directors are not necessarily gender-specific  – both sexes experience similar challenges on their journey, particularly around the need for networking, training, mentoring and access to the ‘right’ opportunities.

But a more balanced representation is to be welcomed – particularly in the Third Sector, which is often the pioneer of exemplary best practice in organisational development.

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