This is the first in a series of posts from members of the Third Sector Women network.
Third Sector Women is intended to be a space in which connections can be made between
women in the third sector, at whatever level, and whether paid or voluntary. Rachel Whale is Managing Director of Vanilla and founder of Third Sector Women.
When I was thinking about this first post in the Third Sector Women series, it was easy to
identify a number of topics that women working across the sector would probably respond
to, for example issues around maternity leave, equal pay, the work life balance etc. But I
hesitated, realising that it might be a mistake to rehash old ground in the way we describe
these issues. Women live lives that are so colourful and complex that it does no justice
to anyone to talk in a way that limits debate, and the more I thought about it the more I
realised that for a long time we have predominantly approached ”women’s issues” from
one angle. My hope for the conversations generated by Third Sector Women is that they
won’t exclusively respond to the negative, but will see the entirety of what is a broad
debate. That is they will not concentrate solely on identifying what we lack and therefore
need, but also on celebrating what we have and therefore have to offer.
This got me thinking, what is it about the way that women work in the third sector that
offers lessons for the sector as a whole? How can our experiences shape the way the
There are any number of answers to these questions, but I will give one example. Women
don’t always fit the mould of linear, vertical career paths. For whatever reason, women’s
career paths can resemble more of a zigzag, their lives sometimes requiring flexibility
due to caring responsibilities and life choices. Traditionally we have interpreted this need
for flexible, part time working as an exception to the rule within organisations. However,
within a complex and changing commissioning environment & political landscape, not
for profit organisations are now facing the challenge of designing more flexible and
responsive workforces – portfolio approaches, non traditional working hours, virtual
working will become more and more normal (interesting to read Ned’s Vanilla radar post
last week on this point). Who better to lead the process than women who have been living
with this style of working for years?
Keep The Date
As a celebration of diversity and free thinking Third Sector Women we will be joining
forces with women around the globe by hosting a TEDWomenX event on 8 December
2011, 1-5pm at The Cube, 155 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ. For more information or
to book a place please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.