Press release: supporting CEOs on parental leave is essential to making leadership careers accessible for Leaders with Babies

There is increasing evidence that the charity sector is failing to support leaders who are parents despite the sector’s progressive reputation, a consultation with charity CEOs by the executive search firm Society Search and the social enterprise Leaders Plus found. In an online questionnaire and at a consultation event, many charity CEOs with young children have reported negative personal experiences before, during and after parental leave. Some have even had key funders threatening to withdraw promised support when they announced they were expecting.

Tanya Stevens, Not-for-Profit Principal at Society said: “It’s shocking that so little support exists in this area, but refreshing that the CEOs consulted cited parental leave as a real strategic opportunity for their charity, if managed carefully.”

A group of CEOs including Kawika Solidum of BeyondMe, Susannah Hardyman of Action Tutoring and Alice Dawnay of Switchback discussed clear steps that charity CEOs and Chairs can take to ensure that CEOs are supported and organisational continuity is maintained during periods of parental leave. Four of the CEOs even brought their babies along to the consultation event hosted by Impact Hub Westminster. The full report can be accessed here.
Verena Hefti, CEO & Founder of Leaders Plus said: “It is essential for true gender equality that we do more to support people in top jobs to combine leadership careers with raising young children.”

Key issues highlighted by the CEOs include:


  • 49% of CEOs consulted said that robust leadership continuity for their charity was front of mind when deciding to try for a baby;
  • An increasing number of male CEOs are interested in shared parental leave, but many struggle to have the conversation with their Chair;
  • All CEOs and Chairs consulted agreed that defining the role that they want their parental leave interim to play, in advance, is essential;
  • CEOs reported the value of setting clear communication parameters for periods of CEO parental leave and return to work.  Benefits include clarity and peace of mind for CEOs and Chairs, improved operations and reassurance to funders that mission drift and stagnation risks are low;
  • CEOs identified a need and appetite for bespoke support networks and professional development for CEOs taking parental leave. This is something Leaders Plus will be offering in 2018.

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