As women, becoming a sector leader can present major challenges. We know this from the research, and from personal experience. Both of us have served in the fundraising profession and nonprofit sector for more than 20 years, and we have each been fortunate enough to work with many sector leaders—women and men alike—who have nurtured and encouraged our growth.
CFRE, ACFRE, MInstF (AD)
Last year, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released a comprehensive report about the status of women in leadership in all sectors. You can see a two-page infographic here and visit the www.aauw.org website to order the full report for free. Here are a few highlights:
- Women make up over half the U.S. population, yet represent less than 30% of executive positions
- Women of color make up less than 5% of executive positions in the United States
- Women make up more than half of college graduates and represent half of the labor force, yet are significantly underrepresented at the senior and executive levels
Our neighbors in Canada have an even greater challenge: as of 2016, women there earned approximately 72 cents on the dollar relative to men, which equates to $8,000 less per year than men doing an equivalent job – nearly double the global average!
Just as AFP’s membership is made up of 75% women, the social impact sector workforce is also 75% female. While 45% of top positions in nonprofits are held by women, when this data is overlaid with the 75% figure, the gender leadership ratio is not tracking apace.
What does this all mean for the social impact sector? And more specifically, what does it mean for women who are fundraisers and philanthropy agents, aspiring to become leaders in their own organizations—to someday command roles at the director, vice president and CEO levels?
Organizations such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation, AAUW and the Nonprofit Hub provide many excellent recommendations on how to most effectively close the gender leadership and pay gaps. Here are a few of the strategies we recommend, especially relevant for women who are newer to the workforce:
1) Ask and Ye Shall Receive. Sound familiar? As fundraisers, we are often fiercely courageous when it comes to asking for a philanthropic gift on behalf of our crucial mission. Asking for a raise? Not so much. Whether you are a fan of Lean In or not, it’s hard to argue with one of Sheryl Sandberg’s simplest yet most crucial points: if you don’t ask for more money, you won’t get it. Major Gift Officers, take note!
2) Record and Discuss Your Aspirations. Do you have career goals mapped out for the next three, five and ten-plus years? Have you shared these aspirations with your colleagues, your mentor, your supervisor and your partner/spouse? Setting career goals may be challenging, however, not setting them can result in missed opportunities and unrealized dreams. Here’s a helpful article.
3) Seek Out Leadership Positions—At Your Workplace and in Your Volunteer Life. Regardless of your position title, make it known that you are looking for leadership opportunities on the job. Also, never forget that, ultimately, being a great leader isn’t about the title. In your volunteer life, seek out your favorite local organization and volunteer there – for an event, on a committee, or perhaps on their Board of Directors. Also, we would be remiss if we didn’t suggest that you consider volunteering for your local AFP chapter and/or AFP International!
Again, these suggestions are a starting point for reflection and discussion, particularly for female professionals newer to the workforce and to our profession. There are myriad ways to broach the challenges for women in leadership positions and the gender wage divide, and the conversation must involve and engage all genders working together to address them. While tremendous progress has been made over the past few decades, there is still so much to be done from a gender politics, leadership opportunity and compensation equity standpoint.
In closing, we’d like to leave you with a quote from Ann Saddlemyer, a renowned Canadian scholar and Guggenheim Fellow: "Don't ever let anyone tell you that you cannot go through a particular door. Always be prepared to go through a door that leads to your goal."
Ann Hale, MA, CFRE
Martha Schumacher, CFRE, ACFRE, MInstF (AD)