‘There are not enough female charity CEOs’, says Children with Cancer UK boss

01 May 2019 News

Dhivya O'Connor

The chief executive of Children with Cancer UK has said there should be more women in top jobs in the charity sector.

Speaking to Charity Finance magazine, Dhivya O’Connor said the charity sector is “fairly accommodating” to women in junior roles but that opportunities at the top are “fewer and farther between”.

O’Connor, who was promoted to chief executive last year, said it is possible for women in the sector to “have a successful career and balance that with a rewarding family life”.

She said: “Being a female CEO in a sector where we still don’t see enough women in the top job is something that personally I’m very proud of. And, for me, it’s important to also be a role model for other women in the sector.

“The sector is fairly accommodating for women. In particular, you do have a lot of women in part-time roles if they come back after having children, which works well in terms of lifestyle balance. However, opportunities as you go up into leadership roles are fewer and farther between.

“I very much subscribe to the philosophy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. My advice to women in the sector is that actually you need to grab opportunities as they come along, try and create them if you can and to really be bold.”

‘Transparency is key’

O’Connor said it was important for all charities to be transparent with their donors about where their money has gone.

Front and centre on Children with Cancer UK’s website is a graph showing the proportion of money it spends on research projects, welfare projects, raising awareness and raising more money.

This level of transparency is rare in the charity sector, with some organisations more guarded over the amount they spend on “the cause”.

O’Connor said this is something she has brought in as she believes donors should be told where their money is going.

She said: “I think transparency is absolutely key. All charities have a responsibility ultimately to their donors to let them know exactly where their money has gone, and what the impact of that funding has been.

“High net worth individuals and major donors in the sector are giving a lot more scrutiny of the evidence of impact and asking tough questions in terms of the best use of resources and money.

“I think transparency absolutely helps in terms of building up stronger relationships with the donor base.”

O’Connor also said showing the charity’s impact is important but admitted this is perhaps more difficult for her charity to measure than others because of the long-term nature of its work.

“It is a bit of a challenge in that our research projects are often over the longer term. For the majority of the research projects that we fund, we commit to a minimum of three years of funding. Sometimes it is even five years depending on what the project is,” she said.

“But I think there is still an ability to draw out key findings as projects develop. The precision medicine project, for example, has seen some really positive initial findings."

Subscribers to Charity Finance are able to read the full interview with Dhivya O’Connor in the May issue here.

Civil Society Media's Charity Finance Week takes place in October and this year the theme is Accounts and Accountability. Find out more about the events taking place. 



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