GuideStar Blog

6 Things You Can Do to Close the Gender Gap in the Nonprofit Sector

African American woman wearing business clothing and sitting outside and looking at the cameraIt’s hard to believe that in 2019 we are still talking about closing the gender gap, but we are, and we must continue to talk about it until it’s closed for good.

In January 2019, AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) announced a new Women’s Mentoring program. The article begins with the sad statistic that women make up approximately 70 percent of the fundraising profession, yet they only hold 30 percent of senior-level fundraising positions.

Part of the issue is that women typically only apply for jobs when they believe they meet all (100 percent) of the job requirements, as opposed to men, who apply when they feel they are about 60 percent qualified. That means that men are applying for senior-level positions that their female colleagues are not applying for in significantly higher numbers.

As we approach the year 2020, we need all hands on deck to rectify this very serious situation.

6 Ways to Close the Nonprofit Gender Gap

Here are six things you can do to help your female colleagues in the nonprofit sector.

1. Share salary information.

Whether formally or informally, it’s important to share salary information. That means including salary information in job postings, as well as making salary ranges public for each position.

If you’re at an organization where salary information is kept confidential, go ahead and share among your colleagues. Don’t be shy. This goes for all of you men, too. If you want fair and equal pay for your mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters, share your salary with female colleagues to make sure that everyone is being treated equally.

Nothing’s going to change until we all do our part to cast light on this subject and get everything out in the open.

2. Be proactive when hiring.

Interview at least as many women as men, especially women of color. Push past any gender bias in the office by forcing the issue.

If you don’t get enough applications from women, hold the interview process until you identify more female candidates. Insist on interviewing 50 percent or more women for each senior level position you post. Placing more qualified women in senior-level positions will have an even greater impact on closing the gender gap.

3. Be bold when searching for a new job.

Assuming men apply for jobs when they are only 60 percent qualified, women should do the same. Don’t wait for the perfect fit to come along. If men can learn on the job, so can you!

If you see a job you’d like to be in five years from now, apply today! You’ve got nothing to lose. When reviewing résumés, I rarely see someone who is 100 percent qualified. Put your best foot forward and go for it! You just might be the perfect candidate.

4. Be a mentor/find a mentor.

Identify one or more women to take under your wing. Whether you provide formal or informal mentoring, look for opportunities to help junior-level women grow professionally. Provide advice, introduce them to senior-level executives, bring them to important meetings, etc.

If you’re new to the field, be proactive about finding a mentor. Start by approaching a colleague in your office or at a similar organization—someone you look up to.

Alternatively, inquire at your local AFP chapter. Even if the chapter doesn’t have a formal mentor program, ask around to learn who the seasoned pros are. Call one up and ask if they have time to answer a few questions. If you like what you learn, ask them if they would consider mentoring you. That could mean as little as three phone calls per year, or as much as a monthly phone call, and introducing you to people they know who could help.

5. Provide opportunities for advancement.

Whenever possible, look for opportunities to promote women.

Your organization may be short-changing itself if you aren’t grooming qualified professionals from the entire talent pool for higher-level positions. That leadership gap could weaken your organization’s effectiveness over time by limiting its ability to attract top women in the nonprofit sector.

6. Believe the victim.

In the era of #MeToo, it has become crystal clear that we live in a culture where we still blame victims. As a sector, we face the same levels of harassment, abuse, and discrimination against women, and especially women of color, as in the for-profit sector. I’d like to think we’re better than that, but according to a recent study, we’re not there yet.

As a sector heavily dominated by women (except for senior management positions), it’s especially important to look out for one another.

Working Together for Women

As Madelene Albright says, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I’d like to add “and men, too.”

If you have a mother, sister, wife, daughter, niece, or female friend, hopefully you want to help them in whatever their aspirations. It’s not only women who need to help other women, but we need our brothers, fathers, sons, husbands, and other men as advocates, too.

Women’s equality won’t happen overnight. There are always setbacks along the way. But if we all start to work together to consciously address this issue in more meaningful ways, real and lasting change is possible.

This post is reprinted from Amy Eisenstein's blog.

Amy EisensteinAmy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is one of the country's leading fundraising consultants. She's raised millions of dollars for dozens of nonprofits through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. She has a real talent for making fundraising simple and accessible for her clients and followers.

Topics: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DEI Women in Nonprofits