Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Women's History Month Reflections: We've Come a Long Way...and We Still Have a Long Way to Go

March is Women’s History Month, and like many of you, we’ve been reflecting on women in the fundraising profession, and the challenges and opportunities we face. We’ve come a long way, though we still have a long way to go.

Ann Hale
Chair, AFP
Seventy-five percent of AFP’s members, or three out of four, are female. That’s roughly 25,000 women who, simply put, have chosen to pursue the greatest profession in the world. We are leaders, from Vienna to Vancouver, who’ve made the decision to become part of something much larger than ourselves. We are advancing our organizations’ many amazing missions by learning from philanthropy agent peers, joining with those peers to promote the social impact sector, and pursuing professional development opportunities to advance our knowledge base and our careers.

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.

Martha Schumacher
Chair-Elect, AFP
However, as is the case with many of our female peers, we have experienced some significant exceptions. For example, early in our careers, we both had the experience of being made to feel under-valued and/or disrespected by some of our male colleagues and donors, simply because we were young and female.

At other moments in our journeys, we worked with a few select male peers who didn’t publicly recognize our efforts or even took credit for them; or we were told in no uncertain terms that the salary cap for a position was non-negotiable, a statement we didn’t challenge because we didn’t think we could or should. These are just a few examples we imagine will sound familiar to many fellow women fundraisers.

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 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
AAUW also recently came out with updated information on the gender pay gap: Women in the U.S. earn just 80 cents on the dollar in the same jobs as men, and the pay gap is not expected to close until 2152. That’s right: 135 years from now!

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
Chair, AFP

Martha Schumacher, CFRE, ACFRE, MInstF (AD)
Chair-Elect, AFP


Jennifer N. Broome, CFRE said...

Excellent and very timely post, Martha and Ann! I Earlier today I attended a meeting of my organization’s Board of Directors, which is populated with 24 distinguished leaders and experts in our mission field from ten nations around the world. Unfortunately, only two (2!) members are women. Clearly, there is much work that remains to be done before we reach gender parity. As a long-time AFP member, and the 2017 Washington DC chapter president, I’m proud to see that AFP is taking a stand on this imperative issue and pressing to keep it top of mind. And while I’m delighted to be surrounded by so many wonderful women colleagues, I must admit that I’m concerned about the “feminization” of our profession. The statistics of the gender imbalance among AFP members – 75% female/25% male – should be a wake-up call to us all that we need to diversify our ranks. Much has been written about the correlation between the increase in women in a particular industry, such as healthcare and education among others, and the decline in the perceived and compensated value of that work. The same could happen – if it hasn’t already – in professional fundraising. So, to ensure the value of our work as professional fundraisers is not diminished and receives the thanks and praise, and, perhaps more importantly, remuneration, it deserves, I’d like to challenge all my fellow women AFP members and fundraising leaders to make an effort to bring more men into this wonderful profession. AFP recently published a great article that digs into the reasons behind why there are so few men in fundraising and what we can do to turn that trend around. It’s well worth the read. It can be found here:

Jennifer N. Broome, CFRE
Chief Development Officer, Nuclear Threat Initiative
2017 AFP Washington D.C. Metro Area Chapter President

Nina Fascione said...

Thank you for this important piece. Even those of us who have a vested interest in this topic need a reminder that more work remains in this area.

Unknown said...

Thanks for highlighting these critical issues, Martha and Ann, and for your own leadership, which serves as a model for aspiring women and men across AFP. I'm honored to know you both!

Your suggestions are a good starting place, but it is vital that we also recognize the systemic factors, including gender-based discrimination and the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by those who are also people of color, LGBTQ, low-income, and/or have disabilities. Leaving it up to individuals to combat these discriminatory practices can sometimes backfire - research shows that when women attempt to negotiate better compensation packages, for example, we are often penalized for doing so -- and places the sole responsibility for remedying generations-old practices with those who suffer the consequences of those practices.

I encourage AFP members to press organizations to address implicit bias in their institutional practices, and to advocate for changes in public policy such as prohibiting employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their prior salary levels, which perpetuates gaps across a woman's career.

I bristle at Jennifer's suggestion that adding more men to our profession is a solution to boost its stature; watering down discrimination by adding more men to our field perpetuates the assumption that work that has historically been done by women is not as valuable or worthy of appropriate compensation.

This fact sheet by the National Women's Law Center outlines promising employer practices worth considering:

Nancy L. Withbroe, CFRE
Past President, AFP/Washington DC Metro Area Chapter
Vice President, Philanthropic Engagement
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

Gail Perry said...

Thanks Martha and Ann for opening up this important conversation. I agree that institutional and hidden bias is everywhere - including all over our nonprofit organizations.

I think part of the solution is to help coach our female colleagues - especially younger ones - career advancing skills. Personally, it took me decades to gain confidence and feel like I could handle myself equally with men. Sure wish I had had a wise mentor who had my back!

I can't address institutional bias, and I am certainly not interested in promoting more men in the profession. But I do take a clear stand for reaching out and helping our younger female colleagues. There's much to learn about how to handle yourself in the work force that is never "taught."

Let's keep the discussion going!

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