Female charity leadership is on the rise in the UK, and yet just one in three chief executives of the nation’s top 100 charities are women, according to new data released by Charity Finance magazine.
The number of women leading the country’s largest charities (by income) has risen by seven percentage points over the past two years, now making up over a third (36%) of charity chief executives, compared with 29% two years in 2019. This includes Michelle Mitchell and Hilary McGrady, who lead two of the top three charities by income, Cancer Research UK and the National Trust.
Although the proportion of women leaders is rising, charities are still most likely to be led by middle-aged, white men. While this is a period of change for many organisations, on average, those leaders have been in post for over five years. Leaders at the top 100 charities are paid well, with an average annual salary of £170,000 (equating to almost €200,000). However, that pay is considerably less than comparable leadership roles in the private sector.
“Pay is one of a number of factors that help to attract the best people,” says Vicky Browning of ACEVO in interview with Charity Finance. “Given the large and complex operations some charities are running, it makes sense for them to pay to get highly-skilled, experienced people to run them in order to help the cause.”
Interviews with charity chief executives underline the challenges of leadership in the current environment, highlighting the importance of prioritising staff health and wellbeing, adapting to hybrid working environments, embedding digital transformation and of developing more inclusive and diverse workforces and organisational cultures.
Among the positive changes to the sector, Matt Stringer, chief executive officer at the UK sight-loss charity RNIB, is reported saying that he believes that charities have become “leaner, less cautious, alert to the need for income diversification, more partnerial in the sector and outside.”
Kate Mavor, chief executive at the English Heritage Trust, is hopeful that the pandemic may well deepen public support, saying: “[We] hope for more support from the public after the experience they have lived through, where charities’ essential work has been more visible.”
Further analysis is explored in the September issue of Charity Finance magazine, published by Civil Society Media.
Related feature: Why we need to take a more feminist approach to nonprofit leadership
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
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