Trustees Unlimited is calling on women to become charity trustees to advance their careers and gain new skills and experiences. The Charity Commission’s ‘Taken on Trust’ report 2017[i] highlights there are 700,000 charity trustees in the UK and two-thirds are male. Trustees Unlimited is keen to change this and is encouraging more women to join charity boards.
Sophie Livingstone, Managing Director at Trustees Unlimited, says “Getting more women on charity boards can help charities improve their diversity and promote better decision making. Women also benefit from learning new skills, widening their networks and getting boardroom experience earlier on than they might in their careers.
“It’s also an opportunity for women to contribute to society and use their business skills in a new environment. We’re finding more professional women are choosing to become charity trustees to enhance their careers, and for their own personal development and to improve their life skills.
“Many businesses are also recognising trusteeships are a unique way to develop their female talent and to grow their leadership pipeline. Joining a charity board can give women strategic and governance experience that is often difficult to provide internally or through training programmes,” adds Ms Livingstone.
Trustees Unlimited runs the board-level volunteering programmes ‘Step on Board’. Companies such as Barclays, BlackRock, British Land, Credit Suisse, EY, Google, law firm Mishcon de Reya and PA Consulting have used Step on Board to place their employees onto charity boards.
One female executive, who completed the Barclay’s Board Placement programme which coaches and matches employees with trustee roles, is Rebecca Bland, Managing Director at Barclays.
Rebecca joined the board of Time & Talents, a year ago – a charity based in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey in London which is dedicated to creating a place where everyone feels part of a community. The charity brings people together and offers a range of services and activities that address social isolation, increase mental and physical wellbeing, and reduce divisions across the community.
Rebecca explains why she wanted to become a trustee, “I’ve always tried to do something outside of work and have had various voluntary roles, but I’ve never been a trustee before. For me, it felt like the right moment to get involved and the Barclay’s programme made it accessible for me.”
Rebecca went through a series of training sessions focused on what it means to be a trustee, as well as a one on one interview to discuss her motivations for becoming a trustee and organisations she wanted to join. She found a trustee role very quickly at Time & Talents.
Rebecca says, “I wanted to get involved in a charity in my local community and fortunately, Time & Talents near to where I live, was looking for someone with a finance background, so it was a good fit and perfect timing.”
When asked what she brings to the role she says, “My background is very different from the other trustees. I’m used to commercial decision making and can bring a flavour of this to the board. This helps the charity in their strategic decision making.”
Rebecca adds, “It’s fascinating to use my skills and experiences in a different context. I’m also learning about new areas such as charity fundraising, safe guarding and engaging with different community groups and the local council, which I find interesting. It’s also made me much more aware of the social issues in my area; as well as appreciate how smaller organisations make decisions and operate with fewer resources.”
Rebecca would recommend becoming a trustee to anyone, but particularly women.
She says, “For those looking to step up to a board role then the more experiences you can gain and the different environments you can put yourself in, the better. Being a charity trustee is a very effective way to gain board experience and work in a completely different area than your day job.”
Sophie Livingstone adds, “As a charity trustee myself at the Royal Voluntary Service and the youth social action charity, Generation Change, I think trusteeships are a fantastic way to develop career and life skills doing something purposeful that gives something back to people and the community.”