Sam Smethers, Chief Exec of the women’s equality charity, the Fawcett Society.
Issues of gender in the workplace have never been so topical.
One hundred years after women in the UK won the right to vote, we’re mired in discussions around how gender affects day-to-day life at work, as well as career development.
Hollywood and the entertainment sector grabbed the headlines first in 2017, with the Harvey Weinstein scandal unleashing a seismic shock to that industry that’s since been felt around the world, and across all employment sectors.
Equality and diversity, an end to sexual harassment at work, #MeToo and #Time’sUp. These were the subjects on everyone’s lips at this year’s Oscars, overshadowing red carpet gossip or even news of the winners.
And what’s emerged since then about sexual exploitation and sexual harassment in some parts of the charity sector. It beggars belief. Many of us who work for charities are in shock; we feel tainted by the behaviour of a small minority in a sector we’re proud to be part of.
Alongside these developments, there’s ongoing debate in the news about the gender pay gap across all employment sectors. Just this month it’s come out that ITN’s gender pay gap at 19.6% is almost double that of the BBC (revealed last year as 10.7%); Guardian News and Media’s figure of 11.3% has also been released alongside plans they’re taking to redress it.
Currently organisations with less than 250 people aren’t required to publish their gender pay gap but this may change. The NCVO recently chose to publish their figure and are calling on all voluntary organisations to do the same, regardless of size.
Our diversity surveys
It’s in this heated climate that we’ve decided to take a closer look at the diversity surveys we asked candidates and recruiters to complete in 2017. To take a cool-headed review of gender diversity in the charity sector as it’s experienced by people looking to move into the sector, or move within it. And to get a steer from our recruiters on how seriously they consider it as part of the recruitment process.
Strength in numbers
Our sector is female dominated.
Around two thirds of us working in charities and voluntary organisations are women.
Replies to our surveys reflected this demographic also: 70% of candidates who took part were women, with 1% identifying as transgender and the remainder, men. For the recruiter survey, 83% of completed surveys were from women, and 15% were from men.
But first: the view from the top
The 2018 edition of ACEVO’s 2018 Pay and Equalities Survey had encouraging news about gender diversity at CEO level.
“I am pleased to see a high number of female respondents in this year’s survey alongside a significant reduction in the gender pay gap.” (Vicky Browning, Chief Executive of ACEVO, the body for charity leaders).
The Acevo Survey points to an increase in the number of women CEOs in the charity sector as well as some improvement in the gender pay gap.
Third Sector’s 2017 Diversity Survey also had tentative good news when it came to gender diversity in the sector at senior level. Three years on from their previous survey, it showed a stuttering but upward trend.
Still, Third Sector found the situation at CEO level wasn’t improved among the fifty charities they surveyed, with “only 32 percent being female, a rise of two percentage points—or one person—on the 2014 figures.”
Does gender have an impact on your career?
In our candidate survey, pretty much the same number of candidates thought gender would have an impact on their career, as thought it wouldn’t (48% to 52%).
But of those, men were much less likely to think it’d have an impact than women: 27% compared to 56%. It seems safe to assume that’s a negative impact.
And when we then asked candidates if they’d ever felt discriminated against at work, 26% said they’d experienced gender discrimination – less than for age discrimination but a significant number nonetheless.
We asked if they could tell us more about this. Over 250 people did, taking the time to complete firsthand experiences of gender issues in the charity sector.
What it’s like for men in the charity sector?
However—and it’s an important “however”— we also received many replies from men in non-senior roles (or who were job seekers) who felt that being a man could be a disadvantage in our female-dominated sector.
There’s an impression that men often don’t feel welcome or that they don’t “fit” in the charity sector when applying for—or employed in—non senior roles.
Are our candidates experiencing a gender pay gap?
First off, it’s key to bear in mind that over 70% of the candidates who replied to our survey are working in intermediate, middle or entry-level jobs. So, we’re not talking about the very top-level jobs here.
Based purely on our survey results, there’s no real difference in pay based on gender amongst the candidates who completed the survey.
There were, however, several accounts from women who— at some time in their career—had needed to argue for equal pay with male colleagues.
But looking at all of our candidates’ comments, it seems the gender pay gap for the sector overall is likely to be explained by the disproportionate number of men in leadership roles, rather than a significant difference in pay between genders in the non-leadership roles that are the focus of our survey results.
Family and caring responsibilities
So, why is there a disproportionate number of men in leadership roles earning the high salaries that exacerbate the gender pay gap for the sector overall?
There isn’t one single reason and it’s a complex issue. But if we look only at the experiences of the candidates who replied to our survey, it’s clear that many women feel that family and caring responsibilities fall largely to them and this has an impact on their career progression within the sector. It also means they’re often in part-time roles which pay less and can allow less scope for career progression.
We had heaps and heaps of comments from women who felt that family and caring commitments meant their career (and salary) in the voluntary sector was held back.
This ties in with what the Fawcett Society—a group campaigning for equality—has found. That family/caring responsibilities are key to understanding the gender pay gap across all sectors:
Gender plus age: the perfect storm
The number one cause of discrimination for candidates (who completed our survey) was age. This surprised us (see our Age and Skills article). It came above gender and ethnic discrimination. What’s more, our survey results showed that being older AND a woman, was a double handicap when it came to getting a job in the sector, or moving up in your career.
It was clear from their comments that many older women candidates (over 40) feel discriminated against on account of both age and gender.
So what about recruiters?
The majority of recruiters who replied to our survey are women (83%).
Ask them what comes to mind when you say “diversity” to them, and most reply ethnicity (79%), followed next by gender (30%).
Not one single recruiter replied that they had more men than women in their organisation, but when asked about the diversity of their charity, there were many mentions of a gender disparity at board level.
So this marries with what the ACEVO Survey found. The gender gap at CEO level is improving slowly, but it’s clearly an issue still.
Our diversity surveys confirm that the charity sector is predominantly female, but that women candidates (and recruiters) are well aware of a disproportionate number of men in leadership roles.
At the same time, many men who are looking for (or in) non-senior roles, don’t feel welcome in the charity sector because of the number of women working in it, relative to men.
As far as our women candidates are concerned, it seems it’s not equal pay for equal work that’s the problem so much as career progression—and a lack of representation in leadership/senior management roles. Their comments point strongly towards an argument that women’s careers and salaries are stalled because of the burden of family and caring responsibilities. Requirements for flexible working and part time hours are hampering their ability to progress according to merit and effort.
Much of this is common to all sectors right now. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t lead the way here. Perhaps it’s time for us to look properly at how we can improve prospects for people who need to work flexibly (or part time) so that we can make the most of the talented, experienced workforce that’s attracted to our sector.
And we need to be more inclusive – recognising that a better gender mix at all levels is a fairer representation of society that produces a healthier working environment, less vulnerable to accusations of cliques and bullying.
ACEVO 2018 Pay and Equalities Survey
Third Sector Diversity Survey 2017