Women working with Black men on the Equate project

Written by Busayo Abidakun, Equate Project Manager

ELBA’s Employment Works team has developed a strong reputation of supporting Black men by showcasing our training and employment opportunities and encouraging them to get involved, to help get them into sustainable careers. However, much of the support we provide would not be possible without the input of the women who volunteer with us and partner across our plethora of projects. 

During this month, which has been recognised as a time for us all to champion and celebrate women globally, we want to acknowledge, praise and thank the female volunteers who have given their time, expertise and dedication to become a pivotal part of the work that we do to support Black men into employment.

During my time working on the Equate project, I have noticed that the volunteers who have engaged directly with the project have been mostly female. Their support in helping Black men of all ages improve their CVs, practice interview techniques, update their Linkedin profiles, as well as offer insights into the corporate world, have been a pivotal reason for their progression and successes in the job market.

Those Equate individuals who have engaged with us thus far, have appreciated the female volunteers’ willingness to come forward and share their personal experiences as women thriving in their careers. 

“It was really great to get to build connections with volunteers from some of the largest companies in the world and to learn from their experiences.”

– Equate member

The gender gap in volunteering we have experienced on the Equate project is also reflected in volunteering opportunities in wider society. Organisations like NCVO have gathered and published analysis showing that 40% of women have volunteered in recent years compared to 35% of men. In addition to this they identified that 23% of women had volunteered in the month before data collection, but only 21% of men had. UN volunteers show a similar gap globally where 53% of women are engaged in volunteering compared to 43% of men.

Personally, I believe the proactive drive towards altruistic activity amongst women is commendable and beneficial for our projects and for the personal development of the women that work with us. The experience of volunteering, especially on a project focused on employment, is likely to help develop skills the volunteer can hone at work such as leadership, mentoring, career coaching and, to some effect, management, as sometimes they will have to challenge our beneficiaries and manage their expectations. All the work they’re doing is not highly valued and potentially life changing to our beneficiaries. 

Looking forward, It’s important to consider why this gender gap exists in volunteering. Are there structures and behaviours that potentially discourage men from engaging in volunteering? Or perhaps there are cultures that encourage women to engage in this extra labour in which the rewards are rarely explicit? These are important questions that should be looked into in more detail by organisations such as ours and those of our partners. 

What we do know for sure, is that the altruism that has been shown by women who are engaging with us is important for the men that we are working with, whilst it has also brought personal benefit to volunteers’ careers and personal wellbeing. 

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