Gender Equality

On the face of it YMCA Birmingham – like much of the voluntary sector – doesn’t seem to have a problem with gender diversity.

After all, about two thirds of our 120 employees are female and they even make up a clear majority of ‘first tier’ managers. The picture becomes less rosy however, the further up the organisational hierarchy you go. By the time you get to our senior management team only one out of the five of us is female. And we are not alone in this. My own observations tend to suggest that the picture is not so very different in many of the other 114 local YMCA associations in England and Wales. Certainly progress has been made – the National Council of YMCAs now has a female chief executive, for instance– but gatherings of senior YMCA staff still look like a bit of an old boys’ club.

No one has set out to make this the case. We have equal opportunities recruitment policies and a range of employment policies and procedures that are designed to make our workplaces welcoming to women. But despite this we often do not attract large numbers of female applicants for senior posts, especially at chief executive level. This is especially surprising given that most YMCAs still place an occupational requirement on their most senior post to be filled by a Christian. Women make up a clear majority of practising Christians in this country, so there is an argument for saying that statistically women should be more likely than men to apply for chief executive roles.

Part of this might be a reflection of our history and name – we were set up by twelve young men, primarily for the benefit of other young men – so there might be a view (even if only subconsciously) that it makes more sense for men to lead a charity whose name explicitly references men. But the reality is that for over a hundred years we have provided services to men and women equally so there is no reason why – all other things being equal – our leadership should not be more reflective of the gender balance of our beneficiaries, and of the general population.

But, of course, all other things are not equal.

It is clear that employers cannot address this challenge alone. Part of the challenge relates to different perceptions and expectations of people according to their gender that are deeply embedded in our society. But that should not give us a ‘free pass’ to throw up our hands in despair and claim that there’s nothing we can do. Expectations can be raised. Perceptions can be changed. But I’ve come to acknowledge that this will involve change from men as well. Indeed, given that the overwhelming majority of YMCA chief executives are currently men, it may well require change from men first.

Speaking to female YMCA colleagues one of the themes that comes up repeatedly is a concern about not fitting in with the prevailing culture. This came as a genuine surprise to me as it didn’t occur to me for a moment that the culture of our meetings could put anybody off. But the comment has been made or implied to me so often that it cannot simply be discounted. Without anyone necessarily meaning to, we have created a culture in which many women feel like they are outsiders. Culture is a slippery thing, but at root it is about what we do, what are prepared to accept being done, and what we are not prepared to accept being done.

So if we want to change the prevailing culture we have to accept that we men need to behave differently and start challenging behaviours that at the moment are not being challenged. In meetings for instance, we need to conduct ourselves less like rutting stags vying for supremacy. We need to become conscious of not allowing women time to talk, or of talking over them and of side-lining their concerns as being of minority interest. Since I started to try and address these issues I have become more conscious of these behaviours and have seen all of them exhibited in YMCA meetings by well-meaning male colleagues on numerous occasions. And it these ‘intangible’ behaviours that have helped to build a culture that many women find inhospitable. It sends a message that it is a men’s club into which they are being invited as guests.

If we were prepared to challenge these behaviours it might help to remove one of the invisible barriers to entry to the top table.


Alan Fraser, CEO


Homeless Sunday 2018

prayer cardSunday 28 January is Homeless Sunday. 

Homeless Sunday is a way for churches to demonstrate solidarity with people experiencing homelessness in the UK, to challenge the conditions that give rise to high levels of homelessness, and to celebrate the work of the churches and others in tackling homelessness at all levels, particularly locally.

Here at YMCA Birmingham we have developed some resources for churches to use as part of their service to mark Homeless Sunday, and raise awareness of this important issue.

The resource available include a myth-busting quiz which can be used in an all age setting, a prayer activity, prayers of intercession, and a printable prayer card which people can take away with them.

We are offering these resources free of charge (though please feel free to make a donation, if you wish to support the work we do). You can download them below.

Homelessness Sunday Prayer Card

Homelessness Sunday Prayer Resources

Homeless Presentation

More info about Homeless Sunday here.



YMCA Birmingham is pleased to announce the twenty-fifth anniversary of the official opening of Will Steel House, one of YMCA Birmingham’s supported accommodation projects.



YMCA Birmingham resident, Gabriel Imevbore has won the title of Young Leader of the Year in the prestigious Youth Matters Awards 2017.

The awards ceremony, which was held on Friday 3rd November in London, is the YMCA federation’s national awards programme that has been an integral part of the charity’s calendar since 2009.


#IAMWHOLE call to action in advance of World Mental Health Day

On Tuesday 10 October, World Mental Health Day 2017, the NHS, YMCA and young people from around the world will come together to challenge the stigma that is stopping individuals affected by mental health difficulties speaking out and seeking help.

Johan Vilhelm Eltvik, World YMCA Secretary General, encouraged young people to get involved with the #IAMWHOLE campaign.


Local charity wins grant from NatWest to continue helping young people with financial training

Thanks to the NatWest Skills and opportunities fund, YMCA Birmingham has been awarded the opportunity to further support up to 70 young people.

The project entitled “Get Rich or Budget Tryin’” sees plans to deliver financial capability training and skills around gaining employment to the vulnerable people that the charity supports. FIND OUT MORE

YMCA Birmingham calls on political candidates to take on national YMCA manifesto recommendations

Local youth charity, YMCA Birmingham is calling on local political candidates to listen to the voices of young people who have been given a platform in this year’s General Election through a national YMCA manifesto.

YMCA Birmingham which supports thousands of young people across Birmingham and Solihull has given its backing to the national YMCA manifesto that lists more than 40 recommendations for the next government, all inspired by consultations with young people across the country. FIND OUT MORE

YMCA Birmingham backs new national research that shows apprenticeships boost young people’s career prospects

YMCA Birmingham has spoken out about the positive impacts of apprenticeships as new research is released today that shows four in five young people would recommend them to others and more than three quarters say they have improved their skills and career prospects. FIND OUT MORE

YMCA Birmingham supports new body confidence school toolkit

Research shows almost a third of 11 to 16 year old’s isolate themselves because of body image anxiety


YMCA Birmingham is named ‘runner up’ at national youth charity awards

YMCA Birmingham has been named runner up at a prestigious national youth charity awards after reaching this year’s glittering finals.