Report: Fewer Women in Nonprofit Leadership Roles

Despite making up three quarters of staffs at large nonprofits, only 21 percent have a leadership role.

Women may make up nearly half the workforce, but in leadership roles, they’re under-represented—including at nonprofits.

That’s according to a recent study by the The Women’s College of the University of Denver and The White House Project. In fact, it could be decades before women reach parity with men. They’re putting the date around 2085.

Through this study, and by releasing the results, we hope to spark thoughtful discussion and deeper exploration of women in leadership roles.

The university hopes to bring the issue to the forefront with the new study.

“Through this study, and by releasing the results, we hope to spark thoughtful discussion and deeper exploration of women in leadership roles. We believe this study will inspire people to contemplate what the world would look like if women shared more equally in the leadership of our society,” said research lead Tiffani Lennon, who leads the Law and Society Department at The Women’s College.

Other details:

The nonprofit factor: While nonprofits have a fairly high percentage of women among their staffs—the study says it’s about 75 percent at nonprofits with budgets in excess of $25 million—women only possess 21 percent of leadership roles. Some subsectors of nonprofits, such as social entrepreneurship, had more female leaders.

Weak points: Among the top-10 companies, women are strongly underrepresented, making up just 11.76 percent of leadership roles. Also, female entrepreneurs in particular struggle compared with men, receiving just 11 percent of capital investment—despite accounting for 20 percent of top entrepreneurs.

Strong points: While few industries have a high percentage of women in leadership roles, some do better than others. For example, women make up 26 percent of all leaders in governmental and political spheres, a higher share than in other industries. Also, companies with women in leadership roles are more successful, with net income at those companies rising at a higher rate than those without female leaders—14 percent compared to 10 percent.

One way to boost the numbers? The study found that organizations that used and enforced merit or performance-based policies had larger numbers of female leaders.

What efforts are you doing to improve the balance between women and men in your association? Let us know in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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