Is the Third Sector Sexist?

by Annie Gainsborough

Since allegations of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein hit the headlines in October 2017 and kickstarted the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, we’ve seen sector after sector forced to have a reckoning with its own sexism. From Hollywood to Parliament to universities, revelations about sexism and sexual harassment have dominated the news cycles.

And then it was the third sector’s turn.

The Presidents Charity Club was dissolved after events at their men’s only gala came to light, and the UNICEF deputy resigned after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were revealed. The news of exploitation of sex workers by Oxfam workers in Haiti has got us thinking about how organisations respond to these kind of allegations .

This is why 7 Charityworks trainees came together to form “Is the third sector sexist?” and launch a research project on this topic. We formed this independant collective out of frustration and anger, yes, but also out of love and respect for a sector we care deeply about. Through the results from our survey, we want to gift a robust set of evidence to the sector, and to the people who give so much to it as staff members and volunteers.

As one of our respondents said, these things aren’t new. “They’ve been happening for years, we’ve been talking about them for years, and we’ve been being ignored for years. But hopefully this will change soon.”

We want to help push this change. It’s not enough to say we know that these things are going on. Our survey not only asks about experiences of sexism and sexual harassment in the sector, but also how organisations are responding to it. We want to gather best practise so that we can celebrate what the sector is doing well and encourage others to do more of it.

So this week, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like to share some preliminary results:

49% of respondents had personally experienced sexism in the third sector.

24% of respondents had personally experienced sexual harassment in the third sector.

70% of women surveyed had personally experienced sexism in the sector.

50% of people surveyed did not feel that their (third sector) organisations were well equipped to deal with allegations of sexism and sexual harassment.

However, it means that a good number do feel that their organisations are equipped to deal with allegations, stating that well equipped organisations have: “strong procedures and policies,” “processes in place” and “robust HR”, as well as keeping “equality at the heart of [the organisation’s] mission”.

These are only preliminary statistics, however, and we hope to grow much further before we pull together our final report. And so, 100 years on from some women in the UK’s gaining the vote, we’d like to leave you with 3 requests:

1. Complete our survey —
2. Share our survey within your organisations and broader networks
3. Follow us on Twitter @Is3rdSectSexist

Thank you, and happy International Womens Day!

“Is the Third Sector Sexist” Team is made up of Annie Gainsborough, Clare Saltiel, Eleanor Covell, Hannah Kunzlik, Holly Smith, Kirsten Greenaway, Polly O’Callaghan. We are independant of any organisation, working in the third sector and taking part in the Charityworks graduate scheme.

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