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Nonprofit Knowledge Monthly


#ChooseToChallenge. That was the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. It’s also what we all need to do to reverse the damage of gender inequities in the workplace and beyond, inequities that the pandemic has only made worse.


A few years ago, we wrote about how the gender pay gap is a threat to nonprofit effectiveness and sustainability. Even more obstacles exist for women of color, according to the Building Movement Project.


In the broader economy, the pandemic has reversed decades of progress for women. Women’s participation in the labor force fell to 57 percent, a low not seen since 1988. While 1.8 million men left the workforce during the pandemic, more than 2.3 million women did, according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center. Even more alarming, a report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that one in four women are considering “downshifting” their career as a result of the pandemic. While we don’t have data on the effects on the nonprofit sector yet, we can be sure nonprofits are not immune from these trends.


This month, we’re honored to feature three articles from distinguished leaders in our field, each relating information on gender inequities in our sector and how your nonprofit can be – and needs to be – part of the solution. Rather than our usual short introductions about each article, we want you to hear directly from our guest authors. The excerpts from each article that you’re about to read will have you quickly clicking to read each full article for more of their insights! Then, #ChooseToChallenge inequities.


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Closing the Gender Pay Gap

By Laurie Wolf, who is President & CEO of The Foraker Group and a board member of the National Council of Nonprofits.


Laurie Wolf257 years. That is how long it will take women working in Alaska’s nonprofit sector to reach pay equity. Trust me, your state’s statistics are not much better. Are you willing to wait? We asked ourselves that question more than five years ago. Our decision was to step up, learn what we needed to do – and then take action.




We know that the pay gap has always been around. Economists predict the pandemic will make it worse by erasing progress women have made over the past few decades. Without reliable child care, women are now more likely to drop out of the labor force, cut hours, and turn down projects – hurting their future job prospects.


Read more about the gender pay gap and what your nonprofit can do to help close it.




The Shecession

By Alejandra Y. Castillo, who is the immediate past CEO of YWCA USA and a board member of the National Council of Nonprofits.


The COVID-19 pandemic is like a Russian nesting doll of crises. Open one, and there is another inside.


Alejandra Y. CastilloThe public health emergency produced a painful economic recession. That economic crisis in turn first exposed, and then worsened, the economy’s systemic racial and gender inequities. Eventually, those inequities led to 2.5 million women leaving the workforce, transforming the deep recession into a “shecession.” Decades of progress for women evaporated in 12 months.


At the core of all these crises are the countless victims of the pandemic: the people who lost their lives, loved ones, homes, jobs, or businesses because insufficient social, governmental, and economic structures cruelly failed the very people who the systems were designed to support in the first place. 


Of course, tackling these kinds of systems failures is nothing new to those of us in the nonprofit world. Our organizations exist to fill the cracks created and/or neglected by such systems.  


Read more about the Shecession.


Mark your calendar for our free webinar about Legacy Giving, hosted by the National Council of Nonprofits and sponsored by Neon One, to be held April 21 at 3:30pm Eastern. In addition to an overview of Legacy Giving, our special guest presenter Joe Tumolo, CEO of Gift Planning Development, will cover simple ways to get started, signs you should be talking to a donor about their legacy, and legacy gifts that people with ordinary incomes can make. Register for our free Legacy Giving webinar today!


Creating Decent Work

By Cathy Taylor and Pamela Uppal, who are the Executive Director and Policy Advisor, respectively, for Ontario Nonprofit Network, which is an International Ally member of the National Council of Nonprofits based in Toronto, Canada.


Cathy TaylorWe all benefit from decent work in the nonprofit sector. As employees, we excel when we experience fair working conditions that improve our quality of life. As employers, we attract and retain high-calibre staff (and save money!) by offering good jobs. And as a nonprofit sector, we are better able to achieve our missions contributing to our communities because decent work builds a stronger, more resilient sector.


Pamela UppalOur research revealed that women workers in Canada’s nonprofit sector are experiencing the same barriers to economic justice that women face in other sectors. Those common barriers include racialized and gendered glass ceilings; a gender wage gap; discrimination based on sex, race, ability, and age; bullying; and sexual harassment. Two notable differences exist, however: the barriers women face in nonprofits manifest in unique ways (e.g. although we have more women in leadership positions than any other sector, they are more likely to be leading organizations with small-medium budgets while men are leading big-budget organizations), and the nonprofit sector lacks specific supports to eradicate the barriers, given the sector’s unique traits and characteristics (e.g., charity model and benevolence narrative).


Perhaps even more importantly, our research work documented strong connections between the fact that a high percentage of the women working in the sector, particularly Black and immigrant women, hold jobs concentrated in frontline or entry-level positions, and how the sector is undervalued, underfunded, and underestimated. Because our sector’s work is often seen as “gendered,” such as care work, it is perceived through negative gender stereotypes such as dependent, emotional, unintelligent, and unskilled, and thus inferior to traditionally masculine work. This biased view has harmful consequences for the sector, its women workers, and the communities our sector serves.


Read more about Decent Work for Women.



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