Letter: Women get a raw deal at Trust

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Women get a raw deal at Trust

Sir: I write with reference to the letters of Lord Kitchener and John Wilks and of Lesley Webb regarding the governance of the National Trust (3 and 7 October). I fully endorse the views of Lesley Webb.

As a life member of the Trust for almost 30 years, whose intention has been to bequeath my modest estate to it, I attended its annual general meeting for the first time a couple of years ago. I was concerned by the masculinity exhibited by the senior officers of the Trust, and shocked by the sense of hostility to those ordinary members who wished to speak from the floor. "Paternal" and "patronising" are modest terms in describing that occasion.

I have not yet received the most recent annual report. I imagine, however, that the pattern of bequests varies little from year to year: 70 per cent of bequests of pounds 2,500 and over reported in the 1993/94 report came from women - Lesley Webb's "great and good" were scarcely represented in the list.

I note that more than 25 per cent of both elected and nominated members to the Trust's council are women: in contrast, women represent fewer than 10 per cent of the executive committee. At the meeting I attended, the only woman senior officer was the head of personnel. Thus, the Trust apparently conforms to the stereotype masculine organisation in which the token woman departmental head is put in charge of that part of the organisation's activity perceived by top management as "a suitable job for a woman". Like Lesley Webb, I have cast my vote for the motion. I fear, however, that we ordinary members will have little influence on an executive committee which contains only half of the elected members of council and which is dominated by persons who are not elected members of its council.

JOHN THEAKSTONE

Blackburn, Lancashire

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