International Women’s Day: meet the charity Sheroes!

This Thursday 8th February is International women’s day. And when one day a year is declared women’s day, we can’t help but ask, what happens on the other 364 days a year?

Well, we have the answer for you. Women continue to woman-up, strive and excel in all fields on every single day of the year. None more so, than those bold, innovative and downright tireless women who work in the charity sector!

This year for International Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to hear from the women who are changing the game 365 days a year. The women who empower us in our own careers and inspire us through the paths they’ve taken. These are the women who are fighting every day for causes they have dedicated their lives to. And what’s more, they’re doing it in a way that changes the game for those that follow.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #PressForProgess. A sentiment which seems all the more vital following estimations from the Global Gender Gap Report that it will take 217 years to close the gender pay gap. 

So each day this week on social media will be dedicated to one of our 5 inspirational women as we celebrate their success, and they share with us their stories and a little advice they have picked up along the way.

Let us present to you, our first two charity Sheroes!

International Women’s Day: meet the charity Sheroes!

Clare Lucas, Campaigns and Engagement Manager at Muscular Dystrophy

What has made you proud in your career?

I’ve been really fortunate to have lots of proud moments in my career because I have had the opportunity to work on lots of exciting campaigns with some incredible people. However, the campaign I am most proud of being a part of has to be the Bring Josh Home campaign. Josh, who was 13 at the time, had been moved form his home and family in Cornwall to a unit in Birmingham. It was meant to be a temporary solution but Josh ended up spending years there. Desperate to reunite their family, his parents started a campaign to bring him home and I was fortunate to play a role in supporting their fight. It was a deeply personal campaign for the family and their openness and honesty about their heartbreaking situation struck a chord with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. I saw the petition grow from a few hundred signatures into a movement of over 1/4 million people all determined to see Josh and his family reunited. What makes the campaign really special to me is that it succeeded. After years of fighting and hundreds of miles travelled, Josh eventually made the journey back from Birmingham to Cornwall. Not only were the family reunited but Josh has flourished since his return in 2016. Seeing the progress he makes is a constant reminder of the power of people and campaigning. I will always treasure getting to be part of their story.

What advice would you give to other women starting out in the charity sector?

My top tips would be:

A) Trust your gut and stand up for what you believe in, even if the odds seem against you.

B) Get to know other women in the sector and find out what their journey has been. It will help you identify areas to explore and avoid in your own career and provide you with powerful allies, mentors and friends.

C) Integrity is key and should be protected at all costs. You want to go home feeling proud of what you are a part of.

 Are there any major challenges you have faced in your career?

I faced two restructures in an old workplace and survived them both. When I say survived, I mean in terms of keeping a job at the organisation but, more importantly, in terms of emotionally recovering and healing. When you really care about what you do it is incredibly difficult to have that role put at risk, especially when this is not due to something you had done wrong but due to causes out of your control. It knocks your confidence and made me question whether I was good enough. It was a very unsettling time but ultimately made me stronger as I had to fight for my role and prove my worth. When I stayed, I knew I had earned my place.

Are there any women who have really helped or inspired you? 

There are so many women I could mention! However, when it comes to campaigning there is one clear winner; my former manager, trusted mentor and dear friend, Rossanna. We grew up together at Mencap in many ways, through the good times and bad times we shared together. As a manager, she helped stretch me and challenged me to be my best self at work and in life. When I was low she would be my cheerleader. When I was high she kept me grounded. She continues to be a mentor to me and is the sort of campaigner I aspire to be; passionate, committed and fierce (in the best kind of way). Beyond all of that, her friendship remains a constant source of reassurance, humour and warmth.

International Women’s Day: meet the charity Sheroes!

Mandy Johnson, Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition.

What has made you proud in your career?

The moments when I feel the proudest are seeing others succeed when I know I have played a small part in their journey. Jessica* is a great example of this; she asked me to be her mentor when she was working in a junior role in a UK-focused charity. She was frustrated by her job and her true passion lay in international development. Two years later, she is working for one of the world’s best known NGOs and is going from strength to strength.

99% of her success is down to her intelligence, diligence and ability but I like to think that the advice and support I have given her added the extra 1% of confidence and motivation. I can’t help but feel proud when I see people like Jessica go on to achieve their ambitions.

*name changed for confidentiality

What advice would you give to other women starting out in the charity sector?

 It is going to be difficult but worth it. There are days when I come home to my husband and say, “I can’t do this.” I lead a small charity, with limited resources, and we are constantly being asked to do more with less.

When I worked in the private sector I had a secretary who would type my letters, book my travel and screen my phone calls. Ten years later, I am the CEO of a charity that I love; I am responsible for overseeing nearly 700 volunteers, a fluctuating team of staff and freelancers, and I serve over 9,000 small charity members. I have to do this without a PA or secretary, no paid HR, legal, or IT support and a very tight budget…and I took a five-figure pay cut for the privilege.

Some days it seems impossible. Yet, every time my husband and I discuss it, we circle back to the fact that there is no job I would find more rewarding. Every day I get out of bed knowing my work helps other people in small charities. All the challenges I am facing are shared across the country by thousands of people who just want to help others. The Small Charities Coalition makes life a little bit easier for anyone in a small charity that needs our help.

My advice would be for those starting out in the charity sector to go into it with your eyes open. Be ready to achieve the impossible.

Are there any women who have really helped or inspired you? 

Yes…so many…I’m not sure where to start. I’m going to have to make a list knowing I’m bound to leave someone out but here goes…

  • Diana Forrest (my Mum) taught me how to be professional, successful and female all at the same time and that they are not mutually exclusive.
  • Wynn Moran (my sixth form drama teacher) had an unbelievable confidence in me. She gave me constructive criticism and pushed me to be better whilst championing me along the way. She remains an inspiration to me as well as a personal friend.
  • Sara Rees (Head of Fundraising at Rays of Sunshine Children’s Charity) taught me how to use positivity, collaboration and kindness to reach goals that others would achieve through self-interest and ego.
  • Brie Rogers Lowery (Director of Product at Change.org) completely owns her gender in a powerful, uncompromising way. She taught me so much about how to navigate gender politics in the workplace.
  • Zoe Amar (founder of Zoe Amar Communications) taught me everything I know about social media and developing a personal brand.
  • Alison Bradshaw (my best mate) inspires me daily. She is the mother of three gorgeous children with a high-powered job. She has achieved so much through her focused ambition, calm intelligence and warm personality. She picks me up when I’m down, celebrates my successes and gives me honest feedback. Everyone needs an Alison in their lives.

What next?

As we strive for diversity in the charity sector, we want to say thank you to both our Sheroes, not only for the work that they do, but also for the examples they set and inspiration they bring to women hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Clare and Mandy have both achieved so much in their careers already that they have both been selected as champions of CharityConnect – you can head over to the platform to keep up with them!

Sadly there are still so many women and girls in desperate need of support in the UK as well as internationally.

Please take a moment to check out the following charities who are fighting to hard to further the advancement and empowerment of women across the globe:

The Fawcett Society – Leading charity for women’s rights and gender equality

Women in Sport – Increases the visibility of women’s sport and encourages more girls to get into sport.

Women’s Aid – Work to prevent women and children suffering from domestic abuse

Body Gossip – Arts and Education charity encouraging girls to feel proud of their bodies and raise self-esteem.

Rights of Women – Aims to end violence against women and provides legal knowledge and advice.

Smart Works – Assisting low-income women to get jobs and gain financial independence.

Keep an eye out on twitter and facebook this week to see all our inspirational women!

Georgina D'Souza

Digital Marketing Executive at CharityJob. Lover of cat-related memes.

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