Who would make a third sector Top 100 Women’s Powerlist?

I’m not a huge fan of “best of”-styled lists myself and it’s not just because I’m unlikely to find myself on one. But I often think that it’s the people who I admire that are the ones who usually go unrecognised.

So I’ve been following with interest the blogs, tweets and conversations going on around BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List, which closes for nominations this Friday (30 November). The programme is inviting listeners to nominate the individuals who they feel have shaped the way we live today. Which women have the greatest impact on British politics, society, culture and the economy?

An all-female panel made up of individuals including the journalist Eve Pollard, the politician Oona King and the crime writer Val McDermid will discuss the merits of those nominated to compile the list of the 100 most powerful women in the UK. Find out more about the list and contribute to the conversations on Twitter  using #whpowerlist.

Although I’m not quite convinced by the use of the title ‘Power List’, Woman’s Hour has got me thinking about inspiring and influential female third sector leaders who I admire and follow their work with interest.

I honestly don’t know where I’d begin. There are of course women like Martina Milburn who I used to work with at the BBC when she was working as chief executive at Children in Need and who has shown leadership and vision in her work at The Prince’s Trust. There’s Camila Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company, who never fails to inspire me when I hear her speak. Or other social entrepreneurs like Karen Mattison and Emma Stewart, the team behind Women Like Us and now Timewise Jobs.

Then there are women with less media profile – although no less influential: human dynamos like Modupe Debbie Ariyo, the chief executive of the charity Afruca. I’ve blogged about her before and the impact she has had on issues around trafficking are impressive. And Ros Spearing, founder and director of Ebony Horse Club. They’d make my list – but would they make Woman’s Hour‘s?

And then of course there are some of our third sector rising star leaders like Lilly Lapena of MyBnk, Lucy Buck of Childs i Foundation, Charlotte Hill, chief executive of UK Youth – all doing incredible work in their respective areas.

I could go on.

Whatever the results of the Woman’s Hour Power List – our female leaders in the charity sector should be celebrated.  So let’s get our own list started.  Which female third sector leaders would make your list and why?

  • Kirsty Marrins

    Great discussion Jude! My list would include Vicky Browning, Director of CharityComms, Zoe Amar, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Lasa, Rachel Beer founder of Beautiful World and NFPtweetup and Laila Takeh, Head of Digital at Unicef

    • http://twitter.com/ALO365 Amy Oberholzer

      I’d like to add Liz Tait – Director of Fundraising at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and Lucy Gower – Founder & Director at Lucy Innovation.

  • Emma McGowan

    Agree with Lucy Gower & Zoe Amar… also Rachel Whale at Vanilla/Charity Works, Dawn Austwick of Esmee and Dame Mary Marsh.

  • Annie McDowall

    I’d like to nominate two women. First up is Debora Singer MBE of Asylum Aid. Debora has run AA’s Women’s Project for many years and is inspirational. Her work has led governments to acknowledge the importance that gender plays in the experience of asylum seeking women and the assessment system, which she has successfully argued, is biased against women. A wonderful diplomat, a persuasive speaker, and above all, an incredibly hard worker, Debora’s work has saved countless women’s lives. She has also written plays about human rights.

    My second nomination is Susan Daniels MBE of the National Deaf Children’s Society. She’s been its CEO since the early 1990s and has grown the organisation from a very small body to one that is international. The NDCS provides a unique range of services and support for families with deaf children and the young people themselves. Susan is passionate about informed choice, and the need for each family to make the life decisions – including about communication – that best meet the needs of their particular child. She was instrumental in getting the NHS to introduce neonatal hearing tests. She has also championed bright young deaf people and helped them on their way to professional success. Susan chairs Groundbreakers, a network for women CEOs of voluntary organisations, supporting other women to achieve the kind of success that she has done.

  • David Downs

    I would vote for Carolan Davidge, Director of Communications for Cancer Research UK. To have started the year with an award winning advert (was in the top 5 of most popular adverts), and continue to spread the excellent work the CRUK is doing, culminating in the Stand Up 2 Cancer on Channel 4 last month. Certainly the Doyen of the 3rd Sector, gets my top vote!

  • tom taylor

    As the CEOs of nearly half our portfolio are women, I’ll nominate some of the rising stars and trail-blazing entrepreneurs supported by the Venture Partnership Foundation:

    Lily Lapenna (MyBnk):
    Inspiring, ever-positive, pragmatic, full of energy, has cleverly lead the expansion of MyBnk’s ‘financial and enterprise education’ provision, hardly the heaviest weight on most people’s heart strings, yet crucial basic sense, as we now know, sorely lacking all over, but especially important for children from less privileged backgrounds. Key to the future and wholeheartedly agree.

    Emma Jane Cross (BeatBullying)
    Same characteristics plus proven stamina, mixing a keen, pragmatic business sense with ruthless focus on and devotion to her beneficiaries. Lead the growth to the point of domestic saturation of a hugely innovative mentoring/service delivery technology for victims of bullying that is the envy of the private sector, never sold out. An awesome woman.

    Georgie Fienberg (AfriKids)
    A charming, steely, collaborative young innovator with a single-minded and highly professional manner that has brought Deutsche Bank to support its first African charity, developed a gateway for investment professionals to get involved in social enterprise, and who aims to do herself out of a job by using business acumen to eliminate AfriKids’ need for UK fundraising. Impossible to exclude.

    Andrea Coleman (Riders for Health)
    Saving lives by making sustainable transport logistics sexy. From the germ of an idea in the paddocks of motorbike GPs to running a shrewd and effective social enterprise that has helped increase the number of people reached by Kenyan health workers by over 700% – with over 1,500,000 people getting access to healthcare across Africa. Incredible achievement.

  • Mike Mompi

    Great initiative, Jude. I am glad to see that you are compiling a list of such respectable, effective, and inspirational women in the Third Sector. Of the many great women you mentioned (and alluded to) in this article, one stands out for me as I’m sure she does for many others: Lily Lapenna.

    Founder and CEO of MyBnk, a social enterprise and charity that is empowering young people to take control of their finance and enterprise education through real-world experiences, Lily and her team are creating a financially literate and enterprise-driven generation in the UK and across the globe. I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing Lily’s work (and impact on the ground) over the past two years and would recommend her, without hesitation, to be included as a key person on this list.

    I once worked in an investment bank and now work with Lily at MyBnk. If it were not for her inspirational leadership and vision, I would have never joined MyBnk and may have never joined the incredible UK Their Sector. Thank you Lily, and thank you to all the inspirational men and women dedicating their lives to shape this world for the better.

  • Jude Habib

    Thanks very much for responding to this blog and all your great comments. Don’t forget to nominate them officially for the Women’s Hour Power List – would be great to see some of our amazing and inspirational women making the list. Best wishes

    • Catherine L F Chin

      Great blog, Jude! No doubt the obvious will be put forward, e.g. Shami Chakrabati, will join others like Camila Batmanghelidjh, as you have suggested, but there are a couple of key women that I will be putting forward, not least being your good self (I know that wasn’t your intention in creating this blog, but no one has mentioned your highly instrumental and engaging advocacy in inspiring social change makers to translate ‘story-telling’ into action & your dedication in helping charities and NGOs, small and large to make the most of their emotive stories and bring in experts to share their stories with aspiring social change makers through your free workshops & clinics).

      Another remarkable woman is CEO of Orchid Project, Julia Lalla-Maharajh, who bravely put FGC on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2010, when Julia amazingly won a YouTube competition an early social media campaign to attend the WEF where she met with world leaders. Far from being disinterested, everyone urged her on and the question asked over and again was: “What works in ending FGC? How can we work together to end it?”. This called for one human rights activist to make a 3 minute video to highlight their urgent cause. In a global vote, she was sent to Davos to hold a debate with the head of UNICEF, Amnesty International and the UN Foundation.

      And then there are others I admire in industry or public sector that work with the third sector to help them achieve their aspirations that I will put forward, CEO and Founder of Chameleon, a leading digital agency, led by Vicky Reeves, who is also a member of Board of the British Museum, Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite and rising politician, Fiona Twycross, Labour Londonwide Assembly Member and currently leading on the Food Poverty Investigation.

      The list goes on….now I just have to submit my submissions on the Women’s Hour website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/womans-hour/power-list/ ! 😉

  • Ian MacQuillin

    Sally de la Bedoyere, ceo of PFRA – achieved incredible results in just a few months.

  • Karl Wilding

    I’ll refrain from naming those in my own organisation, so here goes:

    Julia Unwin – CEO, JRF. She’d be top of my list of sector people, regardless of gender. Brilliant insight. Possibly the best communicator on knotty issues this sector has got.
    Sara Llewellin – Barrow Cadbury Trust. Again, brilliant, robust insight.
    Clare Thomas – City Bridge Trust

    Prof Diana Leat – for her insight into foundations and how they can be better. And her delightful company.
    Prof Jenny Harrow (NB, we teach together) – a fantastic tutor with a great understanding of the sector’s history and origins, I know she is an inspiration to generations of students who are now running charities
    Prof Marilyn Taylor – champion of communities and grassroots participation, a joy to work with and a brilliant ability to make complex ideas seem simple
    Prof Margaret Harris – the best critiques of our sector and where it is going (and like Diana and Jenny, an academic immersed in our sector, not just a bystander)

    And for what its worth, I reckon I’ve worked with many of the best policy analysts in the sector, a good number of whom have worked at NCVO. And they’re all women…

  • S B

    As a senior manager running an organization it would be nice to think I get the rewards and glory when things go well but that is not my experience. I am expected to ensure things go well, that is what I am paid for. There is no additional reward or even most often, acknowledgement, when it does. However I do agree that it is imperative that senior managers keep their boards informed, that is their responsibility. By the same token it is the boards responsibility to understands their duties as trustees and take those seriously, asking the right questions, managing the lead manager properly so that they fully understand what is happening within the organization and demanding relevant information if it is not forthcoming. If they have not done this then it is right that they accept the consequences of not having fulfilled their obligations. Taking things on trust is not part of a trustees job description. It is a difficult job for a trustee and does throw up yet again the question of whether unpaid boards are capable of really providing a strong and relevant governance structure for charities.

  • Jon NORTH

    Sounds a good plan John. Good to see a glimpse again of your common sense, which always made my working life more sane! Say all you want about the legal responsibilities of Trustees, but the dice are always loaded against them if they are not well-informed by the people they amploy and … trust to keep them in the picture.

  • Lauren Scott

    Interesting article John. But there seems to be the suggestion that the senior management were at fault for not informing the board of the issues. But I suppose it could equally be the case that the information was provided but that the trustees did not take proper notice of it, or deal with the issues appropriately. Either way, it looks messy and is one of the reasons why we usually always advise clients intending to set up new charities to use an incorporated vehicle (and to make sure that the trustees fully understand their duties and responsibilities). Incidentally, I’m not convinced that the trustees who have resigned will necessarily be off the hook in terms of liability, so it might be worth the organisation/its trustees seeking legal advice on this and their position more generally.

  • Michael Levitt

    If a charity employs staff or has other significant risks, then it is well advised to incorporate and take advantage of limited liability. This has been the advice for years. It is hard to understand what type of trustee cannot know about the financial collapse of a charity until it happens. Does he not ask for regular management accounts? Does he (or she) not do anything to find out what are his duties? Does he not realise he and his fellow trustees are running the show, not his employees? Come on, these types of trustee should take responsibility and not just view their position as some sort of gong.

  • Paul Griffiths

    There is a lesson here for anyone who signs up to be a Trustee of a charity. I would highly recommend reading ‘The Essential Trustee’ ( http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/publications/cc3.aspx#i1 ) .

    As I understand it, it would be the Trustees who would be liable in the first instance for the debts of the charity and they would be well advised to contact the Charity Commission for advice on their position.

    If it transpires that senior staff of the charity acted in an inappropriate and illegal manner the Trustees in turn might be in a position to recover their losses from those former staff.
    And, certainly if it was the case that staff acted illegally, by not providing Trustees with full and proper disclosure of the financial situation of the charity, this should be in the public domain so that these people are not put into position of trust again, where they might repeat their behaviour.