Women at the Charterhouse

Ann Kenrick, Master of the Charterhouse, celebrates International Women’s Day with a reflection on changes at the Charterhouse, all moving in the right direction.

Marking International Women’s Day is always important and I am delighted to report further progress at the Charterhouse.

When the almshouse was set up back in 1611 it provided accommodation for older men, all the Governors  and all the senior staff were men (apart from the matron!). Since 2017 we have been welcoming women to live here and play their part in our community and they now make up 10% of ‘Brothers’. We have given a home to Sue who reflects here on life during Covid 19, to Gillie who has helped in the gardens and supported the dying, and to Michele who provides us all with delicious cakes and scones. We are also welcoming a new ‘Brother’ Susan this week who is a retired teacher. (NB So far most women residents have wanted to be called ‘Brothers’ too – but that ancient title is always up for review. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in living here and swelling the numbers of our women Brothers here – please do see our application details here – and you could join the discussion about the title!).

Women make up 63% of the staff and have played a major role in supporting the residents in the care home over the last year. With the first female Preacher, Canon Ann Clarke, appointed at the end of last year following my appointment as the first female Master in over 400 years women now make up 75% of the senior management team. In Governance terms we also benefit from advice and guidance from a whole range of highly expert women who now make up 47% of the Board from a position of 20% in 2017. We are proactively building on these changes with our robust Diversity & Inclusion project to ensure equality is firmly established at the heart of the charity.

What impact does this have on the charity as a whole and the culture of the organisation?  I asked some of the members of the team for their views and they said:

“I find the shift from “manpower to AnnPower” (in the form of the Master and the Preacher), just as it should be.   We have the best people in the roles, modernising the charity while honouring its roots –  and with our aspiration to have a higher number of women Brothers, it is important that we practice what we preach (literally).” Tom Foakes, Head of Operations

“Having women in senior positions in an historic organisation like this is very aspirational and motivating for other women who can see it is no longer necessary to be a man to succeed here.” Gabriella Swaffield, Museum Manager

“Including women at all levels in the Charterhouse makes the organisation feel modern, well-balanced and progressive,  that reflects our families and society as a whole. It can only be a good thing.” Joe Thomas, Interim Finance Director

“It is great to see organisations that have traditionally been male bastions moving with the times, and embracing equality, and the welcome changes that women bring at all levels, and in every area of their operations.  The ongoing change in dynamic is very evident here and can only contribute to ours being a more welcoming, progressive and inclusive organisation.” Charlotte Borger, Communications Manager

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