Lorna Dowrick

Lorna Dowrick

The representation of women’s charitable organisations 2008 to 2020 and the implications for gender equality

The period 2008 to 2020 has been a turbulent one for the voluntary and community sector (VCS) as significant global scale events have impacted on all aspects of social, political and economic life. The year 2008 marked the start of a global economic crisis and in 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government began over 10 years of austerity policies in the UK. From 2016 onwards there has been uncertainty in the UK caused by ongoing Brexit negotiations and 2019/20 has seen the unprecedented world public health crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic. Global campaigns on issues such as #metoo, the climate crisis and Black Lives Matter have also all characterised this period. Each of these events continue to affect the whole charitable sector.

Added to this, reports from organisations such as The Fawcett Society (2012), Women’s Budget Group (2019), Women’s Aid (2020) and IMKAAN (2020) point to the gendered impacts of austerity and Covid-19 as they affect the lives of women in different ways to those of men. Women’s organisations are the part of the VCS providing focused support to women and yet women’s organisations as a group within the sector, have not received significant attention in academic research, particularly research which covers the breadth and depth of organisations for women.

This study explores the ways in which women’s charitable organisations (WCOs) are represented between 2008 and 2020 and the wider implications for gender equality. It takes a unique mixed method approach to exploring WCOs. First, the ways in which they are defined. Second, a quantitative analysis of Charity Commission data to identify what they do and where they are located. Third a detailed qualitative exploration of the way in which WCOs represent themselves and their work, alongside how WCOs are discussed and represented in wider public policy. The aim is to provide an analysis of WCOs that will consider how they shape and are shaped by different quantitative and discursive representations and to consider what implications for gender equality may result.

The collaborative partner for this research is NCVO, umbrella body for civil society organisations in England, and an important producer of research through their Almanac Research Programme which provides an annual statistical overview of formal civil society organisations in the UK.

The award is a 1+3 studentship from 2018 until 2022.

Funded in collaboration with ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (Collaborative Award).


Rob Macmillan (Main supervisor)
Chris Dayson and Chris Damm (2nd supervisors)