Non-Profits and Women

We’re re-upping a portion of a post from our senior policy advisor, Jen Simon, who originally wrote about women and nonprofits over on the Wyoming Women’s Action Network blog. Why are we reposting it now? Because this week, nonprofits were explicitly excluded from the business relief grants in Wyoming.

Read the guidelines from the Wyoming Business Council here. Check their FAQs here.


Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review–in a piece aptly titled, “Like the Vacuuming, Nonprofit Work Is Women’s Work”–Kristin Joiner says, “Maybe it’s just a coincidence that leaders of startups in the male-dominated sector get financial support for their ability to develop and execute original ideas, while the leaders of start-ups in the female-dominated sector get financial support for their ability to manage someone else’s idea well. Maybe.”

Joiner goes on to say: “I believe it’s likely that the power dynamics at play between the nonprofit and private sectors reflect the gender dynamics of our larger society.”

And, they do. They reflect those gender dynamics almost perfectly.

What she means is something that those of us who have spent our careers in the nonprofit sector have experienced, personally, viscerally, and sometimes quite abruptly: We are expected to do more with less, be world-class improvisers, capable of knowing vast amounts about virtually everything, be experts in our field, while also being willing to concede that expertise at a moment’s notice. (Often, at the behest of a wealthy board member or donor, and, for that matter, usually one who has no expertise in the organization’s area of service. But we digress, even if only slightly.)

We’re expected to do the heavy lifting. Address society’s ills. Fill in the gaps for government. Remedy the mistakes of businesses. And be grateful all the while. We’re expected to be “good girls.”

So maybe it also shouldn’t be surprising that the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University says, “Women are 74% of the nonprofit workforce and are often paid 74% or less to do the same job as a man.” Women represent only 48 percent of board members and 42 percent of board chairs. And, the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations are run by men. Nearly 80% of all major npo CEOs are male. Only 21 percent of large nonprofit CEOs are women.

And, in spite of accounting for more than 14,000 jobs in Wyoming, more than $1.2B in revenue, and $186M annually in wages (according to this 2016 report from the Wyoming Nonprofit Network), the men in the business sector, the men who sit on nonprofit boards, the men who govern our state, those men don’t really see this as *business*. Which is precisely why the nonprofit sector was very nearly *explicitly* excluded from a major business bill.


Update: We want to restate that the Wyoming Business Council excluded nonprofits from the business relief grants. You can hear the WBC’s CEO make his most recent comments about the decision to exclude nonprofits here at about the 54-minute mark.

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