To mark International Women’s Day – which took place on Friday 8 March – Third Force News spoke to some of the Scottish third sector’s most inspiring women. Here they reflect on what makes them tick, the opportunities the third sector provides, and what challenges they face as women in the workplace.
Michaela Collins, is head of development and partnerships at Possibilities for Each and Every Kid (PEEK) and has served as a participant, volunteer and staff member over her 19 years with the charity.
“I’ve attended PEEK since the age of nine and I was always inspired by the play and youth workers who managed to deal with some really difficult situations in such a dignified way.
“At 15, I left school with no aspirations or ideas on what I wanted to do with my life. Back then, many of my friends turned to alcohol, drugs or had children really young. I wasn’t in a good place to think about my future and the choices I was making were questionable.
“However, on my 16th birthday, PEEK offered me a year-long apprenticeship. Twelve years on, I’m still at PEEK and my roles over the years have changed as PEEK developed and expanded across Glasgow.”
Jane-Claire Judson is chief executive of Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, which supports people and their families across Scotland
“There are allies in the third sector and the sector can enable women to pursue their career when that may be more difficult in other sectors. It’s important to acknowledge though that being in the good sector doesn’t mean that there are not issues.
“First, we are exposed to structural inequalities and the sector alone can’t solve that. Second, we can sometimes mask our own inequality. A charity may be fighting a specific injustice – that doesn’t necessarily mean it treats women well. It also means that we can have a false sense, a complacency, around these issues.
“For a female heavy sector, both in volunteering and in staffing, it’s disappointing more men are in senior positions than women.”
Ingrid Webb is chief executive of COPE Ltd, an award winning social enterprise based in the Shetland Islands which provides an inclusive work environment for disabled people.
“I think, as a woman the challenges I have faced have been when I have been unable to present my plans or aspirations to those who already have a fixed view on how services should be delivered.
“I feel that at times my experience and knowledge has be overlooked and that can be incredibly frustrating. I am however known to be a very optimistic person and I will always try a different approach should my first not be successful. I believe we all have something to share and only through embracing diversity will we all thrive.”
Selina Hales is founder of Refuweegee, a small charity in Glasgow which aims to provide a warm welcome to refugees on the arrival in the city.
“Usually what gets me out of bed is a child demanding that I respond to their cereal needs immediately, or on very special days I get woken by the words: ‘Mummy I’ve had an accident’.
“What makes this Groundhog Day style morning routine manageable? Their funny little faces obviously, but also that I now have complete control over my work schedule and for the first time in my career I am in charge of how to manage my time between being both mother and director of Refuweegee.
“The third sector can be tough and rewarding and challenging and unforgivable, all in the space of an hour! But working within old and new communities I have found my happy place and my balance.”
Nicola Hanssen is general manager at Roar – Connections for Life Ltd and has enabled the development of a range of initiatives aimed at reducing loneliness and isolation in older people.
“I wouldn’t say that any challenges I faced were particularly due to being a woman, other than a brief period with an all-male board who hadn’t grasped the concept of strategic governance and thought they were executive directors.
“I think the challenges I faced were the same as many woman across many sectors who need to decide their priorities in life when it comes to juggling family life and a career. I spent a lot of time working part-time across a range of jobs when our children were young. I don’t regret a minute of it.”
Megan Sutherland is a trustee of Who Cares? Scotland and is studying public policy and statistics at the University of Glasgow.
“My flatmates can testify getting out of bed is hard for me, but I make myself get up when I remember what I’m doing today, because it’s so much more important than just me.
“I’m privileged to be able to be a part of the radical change we are making for some of the most vulnerable people in society and I feel I have a huge responsibility to speak up for those of us who can’t or are no longer here.
“Knowing the stories I do, I have no doubt that systems, attitudes and cultures have to radically change, and I will use any skills or time I have to help make it happen wherever I can be useful.”
Sophie Unwin, is founder and director of Remade Network, a social enterprise and campaign to create a network of community repair centres around the world.
“We only have to read the news to see the massive challenges we’re facing together and although I find them overwhelming I’d like to try and do something positive.
“I hate waste – not just of things – but of people and I’m particularly inspired and motivated by the Extinction Rebellion uprising and the movement for a Green New Deal which Caroline Lucas and others are bravely spearheading. For my work, the Remade vision is to build a thriving repair economy – replicating the work in Brixton and Edinburgh to create thousands of new green jobs in repair education.”
Rowan Anderson is partnership manager for drugs initiative at the Corra Foundation and manages a collaborative grant-making programme working in partnership with voluntary and statutory agencies to support children and young people who are affected by alcohol or drug use.
“Stigma and social exclusion have been continuing features of my career in alcohol and drugs, and working to tackle these is one of the primary reasons I choose to work in the third sector.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with incredibly dedicated people in every role I’ve had, from amazing volunteers who help run recovery projects to colleagues across the sector who are positive disrupters and agitators. They are social justice warriors who spend their days working with people affected by alcohol and drugs to help them to recover and heal, to find their agency and voice again after years of being disenfranchised, stigmatised and excluded from our society.”
Stephanie Fraser is chief executive of Bobath Scotland, which supports people with cerebral palsy.
“My training as a ballet dancer and my commitment to the arts led me to the third sector. Many people – including those who work in arts organisations – don’t recognise these organisations as charities, but arts and culture are a vital and thriving part of the third sector.
“I love the creativity and collaboration of the performing arts in particular. I started my career in the sector with English National Ballet, moved to Scottish Ballet and now retain my connection serving as a trustee of Horsecross Arts which runs the newly renovated Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall.”
Mary Glasgow is chief executive of Children 1st, which aims to give every child in Scotland a safe and secure childhood.
“I’ve stayed in the sector because, despite the many challenges like the long hours, the insecurity and the sheer exhausting hard work, I’ve learned so much. I’ve been really fulfilled by seeing the impact that can be made when the relationships with children, families and communities are the focus.
“I’ve had the chance to build services from scratch, and I mean literally build! From flat pack furniture to decorating premises to being part of a design team building a purpose built family centre. I’ve worked with amazing families and community groups and been part of and led teams of inspiring staff and volunteers.”
Celine Sinclair is chief executive of The Yard, which creates safe havens for disabled children to play and make friends.
“I face all the same challenges that anyone in a senior leadership role faces, but I am superbly supported by my board and colleagues.
“I am a great believer that you can achieve anything you set out to do, through building a quality team that you trust and respect. If you do not know how to do something, it does not mean you cannot do it; it just means you have to learn how.”