I met Helene at IFC, where she lead an interesting session on women leadership … that I could not avoid to participate!
Helene is one of those people with whom share a common ground of thoughts and projects about meaningful questions – sometimes it happens and generate lots of new ideas!
I appreciated her approach to feminist leadership and the possibility to develop projects even in Italy (I will keep you updated about it soon) with the NPO she co-founded – FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders.
It is a pleasure, then, to have her on this blog to gather a few thoughts about governance – since she is a Board member – and women leadership. Four questions are very few compared to the complexity of the whole issue, I am perfectly aware of that; however, I am going to resume the conversation in the forthcoming blogposts – and, of course, I am eager to listen to your feedback and comments.

Enjoy the reading!

 

Helene, the payoff on your website says “We call on all civil society organisations to match the percentage of women in leadership positions to the percentage of women in their staff”. What is the situation both in Europe and globally, from your perspective?

Women are underrepresented in top leadership positions of civil society organisations; both globally and from what we know so far also nationally. Based on the data we gathered in our FAIR SHARE Monitor, a man is currently 5 times more likely to rise to a senior management or board position than a woman. Considering the fact, that the workforce in the civil sector are largely women, this gap is outrageous and illustrates the inequalities in our workplaces.

But it is not only a gap in representation. I think, the credibility gap between the external goals of the sector around equality, social justice and human rights is even worse. How can we legitimately claim to work towards a more equitable world, if we do not manage to live up to these objectives within our own structures?

 

The word “feminist” is often perceived as somewhat intimidating. I personally find that it is among those words that require to be contextualized in order to grab their strength. There is a huge need to talk about what being feminist – and feminism in general – implies nowadays. What is your way to define a feminist today?

Anyone who believes in and aims to advance equal rights for all genders is a feminist. This is why we also advocate for feminist leadership as the new paradigm for the civil society sector – it strives for intersectionality, representation and collective decision-making and can be practised by men and women.

The UN Secretary-General and the Canadian prime Minister call themselves feminists so others, especially men, should follow their example and take a stand on gender equality.

 

This blog is focused on governance and its relationship with development of nonprofit organizations. You are a board member at FairShare, which is an NPO that has a multi-national all-woman Board of Directors. Which are the main features that, in your daily job at FairShare, are capable to express your leadership?
Our ambition is to explore feminist tools and practises also in our governance and decision-making to experiment and hopefully lead by example. This is a challenge for me to keep all the different streams of work and ideas focused and work with a large number of enthusiastic individuals to ensure that we have the best approach possible. Collective decision-making is time-consuming and sometimes exhausting but also a lot of fun and rewarding and I truly believe in the power of the collective voices and perspectives. I have already benefitted so much from insights and advice from the FAIR SHARE Action Circle – the collective decision-making body I established together with Emily Bove, the founder of The Feminist Leadership Project – and others who believe things can be different. FAIR SHARE as an organisation and me personally would not be where we are today without the amazing group of people around us.

 

We will have the first Italian Nonprofit Women Camp at the beginning of March. Would you provide any suggestion to women in the Third Sector to encourage their organizations to put more efforts in advance this issue?
I think, it is time we claim our seat at the table – on our own terms. One reason we started the FAIR SHARE Monitor was to give women in the sector the evidence about the gap in representation so that they can make a strong argument for organisational change. We will not significantly change the number of women in leadership without re-thinking our cultures and structures that have over-benefitted men for decades. So we have to get organised, act in solidarity and define new rules for leadership. A FAIR SHARE Monitor that looks at the situation in Italy could be a powerful starting point to mobilise around our shared goal of gender equality in the civil society sector. We would be happy to support such an effort.

 

Helene co-founded FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders e.V. and has been leading the setup of the initiative on a voluntary basis since then. Over the first year, she built a coalition of organisations and individuals committed to gender parity and feminist leadership in the social impact sector. The FAIR SHARE Monitor measures the number of women in leadership positions with the aim to achieve gender equality in the sector by 2030.
Before founding FAIR SHARE, she served as the Deputy Executive Director at the International Civil Society Centre where she managed the development from a start-up phase to a mid-sized organisation. In this capacity she also worked closely with the top leadership of the largest internationally operating civil society organisations on issues such as governance, accountability and cooperation. She lives in Berlin, Germany and has two sons.

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About Simona Biancu

Consulente e formatrice su fundraising e filantropia strategica con la sua società ENGAGEDin. Master in fundraising all’Università di Bologna e Executive in Strategic Philanthropy presso Fondazione Lang, collabora da anni con enti nonprofit, Università, istituzioni sanitarie e culturali in Italia e all’estero. E' Vice-presidente di ASSIF - Associazione Italiana Fundraiser e socia AFP - Association of Fundraising Professionals. Ha esperienze come Board member in organizzazioni e istituzioni italiane e internazionali. Tiene corsi e conferenze a livello internazionale su fundraising e filantropia.

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