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Championing gender equality in the third sector

Annie Hayes at Third Sector Jobs shares advice on how to implement robust gender equality strategies within the third sector as we approach International Women’s Day (IWD).

Celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality. These are all key themes for this year’s International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8 March) and the workplace has an important role to play in helping to create a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Here are some useful tips to help you implement robust gender equality strategies in your third sector organisation:

Collaborate and support

Women make up two-thirds of the workforce within the third sector. Many of these also work in part-time roles in order to juggle childcare responsibilities. Charities and not-for-profit organisations must collaborate with their female-led workforce and understand the issues they face.

Surveys assist in gathering data. Charities that also support campaigns that support an end to sexual harassment at work, including #MeToo and #Time’sUp demonstrate that there is a zero-tolerance approach to sexual discrimination within the sector and that there are forums and appropriate channels to report concerns.

Lead from the top

Establishing a culture of gender equality generally comes from those in leadership, and should emphasise that all staff should be treated fairly, regardless of their gender or seniority. Auditing any gender gaps is a way to understand where the charity sits on these issues and what needs to be done.

Is equality happening when it comes to pay, promotion and opportunities? Where do the challenges lie and what plans are being put in place to ensure that external images match up with internal experiences? These questions are important for all types and sizes of organisations.

Benchmark pay

Currently, organisations with less than 250 people aren’t required to publish their gender pay gap but this may change. With many women still falling behind on pay when they take breaks to have children, it is an issue that must be reviewed.

Improvements can begin by monitoring and communicating employee compensation regularly, disclosing salary levels, checking starting salaries are equal between men and women and removing any bias from performance related pay, bonuses or overtime. Last year, we announced that salary transparency is mandatory when advertising on Third Sector Jobs, and listings that do not show a salary band will not be posted on the site (except for voluntary, trustee and non-UK roles).

Remove barriers

Understanding what is preventing women, working parents, carers or men from moving ahead with their careers is another important element of moving an equality strategy forward. Flexible working policies must be regularly assessed to ensure they give those with caring responsibilities equal access to development opportunities, improved pay and recognition at work. Are the internal messages working? Can equality policies be improved? Is flexible working still working?

It’s also important that male and non-binary colleagues are equally supported at work, particularly in a workforce that is predominantly female. With a lot of fundraising work also being conducted in the external environment, are there any barriers being felt by these groups?

Recruitment free from bias

Technology-enabled screening processes are helping to remove any unconscious biases and ensure that the recruitment process is fair and equitable for all applicants. It’s an important element in establishing a new generation of third sector workers that are chosen as the best person for the job, regardless of gender identity.

Re-working work

The pandemic has reset expectations around working in the office. Charities and voluntary organisations that are able to facilitate hybrid working models and/or flexible start and end times together with term-time only options will appeal to working parents and key talent.

The high-profile campaigns in the media addressing the issues around the menopause and the challenges that women face during these times must be part of the agenda on equality too, particularly within the Third Sector where the workforce is female-led.

What is the charity doing to support women in their mid to later careers that are experiencing menopausal symptoms? Is the whole workforce being educated around the issues? Are male and non-binary employees included in the conversations and, what issues do they have integrating into the workforce and accessing opportunities?


Talk to us about how Third Sector can help you build and communicate your employer brand or recruitment marketing to the charity sector. Email Joe Edmonds or the charity finance jobs team to discuss your needs and bespoke special packages.

Read more about how to rethink your employer brand in this downloadable e-book from Wonderful Workplaces. And check out the latest jobs here.

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