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16 Nov 2016 at 12:12 pm

5 things I learnt from ‘Equality in the Workplace’

Lizzi Hollis

Corporate Account Manager

CharityConnect: 5 things I learnt from ‘Equality in the Workplace’

This month Fundraising magazine has published its first ever Equality in The Workplace report and as CharityConnect’s resident feminist writer I want to share with you 5 things I learnt from it.

1. Comme ci comme ça

For those of you not familiar with the French language, comme ci comme ça basically means things aren’t too good, but not too bad either. Yes, the charity sector does far better than the private sector in a number of ways (we still have more diversity at senior position than big business) but we’re also lagging with the corporate sector in the opportunities we are giving both women and people of colour. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the findings, for example that women are equally applying for promotions as often as men, but horrified at the level of sexual harassment that exists within our workplaces.

2. Women WANT promotions

What a joyful statistic to read – women are equally applying for promotions as much as men, showing great ambition amongst the women within the charity sector. The report sadly did not offer statistics of how many women vs men applying for these promotions actually received them, but our knowledge of an existing lack of female seniority at Head Of and Director levels, would suggest that while women are taking the opportunities to apply for advancement, they might not often be winning it, missing out to their male counterparts.

Furthermore, family responsibility is both a concern for men and women and was often the deciding factor when considering going for a promotion. Unfortunately, a lack of clarity in the report means that the specifics of what this means were not provided. Does family responsibility refer to worries about child care if a promotion means a bigger workload, or is it about being able to provide better financial stability for one’s family? It perhaps is not surprising to learn that the second biggest factor for women not applying for promotion can be put down to a lack of confidence. A whopping 59% of women compared to 30% of men cited this as a reason.

3. Flexible working is key

Again, flexible working isn’t just an issue for women and a massive 62% of women and 77% of men want flexible working conditions to assist with family responsibilities. The disparity in numbers may reflect the age of respondents to the survey, with males who took part falling into an older age category than women. However, another reason for the larger proportion of men wanting flexibility to assist with family responsibilities could be that traditionally women have been the more likely to be considered for flexible working and men’s needs have fallen to the wayside. Over half of men and women participants had requested flexible working, which shows that the charity sector must adapt to the changing dynamic of family structures, where managing the family and household is not solely on the shoulders of the female any longer and where same-sex or single-parent families are more commonplace.

4. The men have no idea

I tried to avoid eye rolling when I read that “71% of men think that women are sufficiently represented in senior and high profile positions in fundraising” but I failed. Given the fact that men generally believe that women dominate a conversation when they talk just 25% of the time it is unsurprising that the men have barely noticed a lack of women in senior roles. It may even go deeper and more scarily institutionalised than that. There is a saying I love that goes “When you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. It could be that the rise of equality reports such as this one have spooked the guys, who worry their dominance of the charity sector is under threat (it is, we’re coming for you!) and so are claiming that women are well-represented in a bid to mask the true disparity. Perhaps this is a very cynical view, but in a sector where 70% of senior roles are dominated by white men and 56% are men as a whole even though they make up on 30% of the workforce there is a clear problem. Mostly sadly of all though, is that if our male leaders do not recognise this as a problem, progress will be slow.

The 59% of women who believed that females are unfairly represented at the top of the sector cited lack of female role models (39%) and work life balance (72%) as reasons for this. What surprised me the most though, was that 58% of female respondents felt that their organisational culture was a barrier to their progression. Because we tend to hire in our own image, if our boards and SMT’s are filled with men, they are going to hire other men, leaving women perpetually under represented. A greater diversity on boards in the first instance can help to break this cycle.

In the words Malala Yousafzai “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back”

5. Sexual harassment is happening

I cannot believe I am writing this in a report about the charity sector in 2016: 36% of female respondents to the survey have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. This might not even be an accurate representation of the true figure and we’d have to ask every woman in the sector if they have experienced sexual harassment. Even then we might not know the actual figures; the very nature of sexual harassment as a power play means that a number of women may be fearful to disclose experiences of sexual harassment. Although 15% of men have also been subjected to this type of harassment the thing that is most worrying is that women’s experiences have not only been in the workplace but with suppliers and even our donors! How can we expect women to progress in our sector when there is such a blatant lack of respect? Our organisations must do more to create safe spaces for women (and men) to come forward and report instances of sexual harassment and then deal with them as serious claims.

So there we have it. I am delighted that reports such as this are becoming a feature of our sector. Knowing the issues that exist mean we are better equipped at tackling the causes and making the charity sector a safe, equal and diverse place for us to work. Let me know your thoughts on this report and what you think can be done to gain better equality.

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