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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Are women really winning the gender pay battle?

This opinion piece is about 5 years old

Susan Smith reflects on the impressive line-up of inspiring women featuring in March's Third Force News and what it means for the sector

Team TFN had lots of fun uncovering 11 inspiring third sector women for this month’s International Women’s Day themed feature.

We had a very long list to choose from as fortunately there are loads of really impressive women in Scotland’s third sector. We wanted to talk to a range of women at different points in their career, and get a little insight into their working lives.

At some level, women are winning the gender pay battle in Scotland’s third sector. RNLI recently announced that women are paid 3.1% more than men. Last April, when TFN looked into the gender pay gaps for Scotland’s top 10 third sector employers it found three – Enable, Cornerstone and Richmond Fellowship Scotland – with gender pay gaps in favour of women.

Anecdotally, it seems there’s been an increase over the last decade in women carrying out senior roles in the third sector. At the corporate charity level, we are seeing women leading in finance, campaigning and organisational development among other areas, and they are stepping up to chief executive and chair positions more often. 64% of Acosvo members, for example, are now women.

That’s great and it’s these women that TFN has showcased in this issue – these are women leaders whether they have reached the pinnacle of their career yet or not. They are an inspiration to women starting out in their careers and show the opportunities available within the third sector.

The working environment within Scottish charity head offices has also changed considerably over the last decade. Compassion, wellbeing and family friendly practices have become central to the dialogue around working environments, perhaps driven by the rise in senior women demanding more flexible working arrangements, and certainly enabling their progression.

But to put a little damper on this rosy picture of equality, these women are also just the tip of the workforce iceberg. The third sector has a 65% female workforce and most of them are not leaders.

A massive 36% of the UK third sector workforce is employed in social care.

As the Fair Work Convention highlighted last month, working conditions in social care are far from ideal for many people – and most of these people are women. It reported issues such as zero-hours contracts, last minute changes to shift patterns, and of course poor pay.

The voluntary sector employs a quarter of Scotland’s social care staff – are they translating the positive working environments in head-office to women on the frontline? It’s hard to answer this, but it likely that some are and some aren’t.

TFN will be exploring Scotland’s top charity employers 2019 gender pay gap over the next few months, and we hope to see more than three of the top 10 recording a gap in favour of women.

Overall, it’s great that so many women are thriving in the third sector – but let’s make sure this leadership transforms working culture across the sector, not just in the boardroom.



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about 5 years ago
What about all of the medium sized charities who are happy to include flexible working when it suits but are awful when it comes to parental leave or sick pay and use their charity status as a reason to not be a great employer? How do we get the sector to recognise its worth investing in great talent.
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