skip to Main Content

Do We Need a 4th Wave of Feminism for Nonprofits?

As women across the world celebrate International Women’s Day, I thought I should take a look at the women in our part of the world. In the nonprofit sector.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that only 18.8 percent (75) of the chief executives at 400 US non-profits that raised the most from private sources in 2007 are held by women.

That same article references studies by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in San Francisco that show women make up about 2/3rds of the nonprofit work force and often run charities that are smaller than these 400 largest. And a study by the Association of Fundraising Professionals that found 3 out of 4 fundraisers are female.

That’s a lot of women working in social change, social service, the arts and education.

How well are women paid?

Ms. Magazine reports that a Guidestar analysis of 2008 IRS data showed that in New York, the larger the nonprofit’s budget, the greater the wage gap between men and women.

Guidestar, the agency that monitors nonprofits, found that women executives working in organizations with budgets greater than $5 million earned $401,000 to $621,000. 64 cents to a man’s dollar.

However, women executives at small nonprofits earned an average of $84,000, compared to men’s $100,000. 84 cents to his dollar.

That’s in New York City. Those are women executives. What about women in other parts of the country and women in non-executive positions?

The very first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The act clarified that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck. Sounds commonsensical that the 180-days should start when you realize you’ve just gotten a paycheck that’s less than a man doing your job, right?

Not to 5 of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices —guess who. They threw out a lower court ruling and decided that the statute of limitations begins with the first discriminatory paycheck even if it was years earlier and you had no idea about it. In fact, Ms. Ledbetter might never have known except for an anonymous co-worker, who has never come forward to this day, who left her a note alerting her to the pay disparity.

Thanks to Ms. Ledbetter’s efforts both in the courts and her activism to push for the legislation, we have a more realistic means of legal redress for pay discrimination. Ms. Ledbetter has become a personal hero of mine. If you want to get a glimpse of why, check her out on a recent Rachel Maddow show.

What does all of this add up to?

Women dominate the world of nonprofits. Women often earn less than men working in the same executive nonprofit occupation in similar fields.  My hunch is that the stats would be just as bad for front-line admin staff.

Now that we know this, what are we going to do about it? Negotiate for higher wages? Unionize for higher and fair pay for staff? File lawsuits? What are your ideas about how to stop undervaluing and underpaying the women who make the world a better place to live?

Here’s one idea: share all your salary data with the entire organization. Radical, maybe. Imagine if all organizations did this. We wouldn’t need to rely on anonymous tips to know if pay was fair or not.

Back To Top