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Feminists in the boardroom

Be on a feminist board with logos of Engender, Amina, Rape Crisis Scotland, Close the Gap, Scottish Women's Aid, Zero Tolerance and the Young Women's Movement.

Governance isn't necessarily the most glamorous area of feminist activism, but it's a vital part of making change. Here our Communications and Engagement Manager, Alys Mumford, discusses why you should consider joining a board.

‘We don’t just need 50% women elected, we need 50% feminists elected’ is an oft-heard phrase when we are talking about increasing women’s participation. While frequently spoken in the context of politics, it is equally true about women on boards. And with more and more organisations striving to have gender balance on their boards (both because of the Scottish Government’s Representation on Public Boards Act and because of, y’know, equality and stuff), it’s really important that governance is seen as a feminist issue.

Boards can be as varied as the organisations they are responsible for, but in essence, they ensure that an organisation is effectively and properly run, and is meeting its overall purposes. This can mean making decisions about organisational focus, about staff welfare and pay, about funding, and about organisational policies from maternity leave to sustainable transport. I don’t know about you, but those all sound like things that feminists will make much better decisions about.

Boards can also be daunting - just like any groups which have traditionally been male-dominated, they can have a poor culture, hold meetings at inconvenient times, and be focused on the more glamorous aspects of holding a trusteeship at the expense of the boring-but-vital governance work. There is a real concern that boards which are resistant to change but are required to diversify membership will do so in a disingenuous way – recruiting women only to sideline them.

So that’s why Engender is pleased to be working with other women’s organisations in Scotland to hold two events to help you consider being on a feminist board – whether that is by joining the board of a feminist organisation, or through bringing feminist governance to another board. We want to help you understand how your skills and experiences can contribute to the work of a board, and also help you to recognise when a board will value those contributions. You can sign up to the events, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow, here.

And if you’re already sold on the idea of joining a feminist board, then please consider joining the board of Engender! All members are eligible (not a member yet? Join here) and you can find out more by emailing maxine.blane@engender.org.uk. And because we know that women are constantly told that we shouldn’t put ourselves forward for things, if you know anyone you think should be on our board, please give them a nudge! The deadline is midnight on Sunday 27th October, and voting will happen at our AGM on November 16th.

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