As a cisgender white woman, I recognize my privilege and acknowledge that women and girls, especially those with intersecting identities such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, age, ability, religion, and indigenous heritage, have endured and continue to face discrimination that infringes upon their fundamental human rights. To address these issues, it is imperative that women and girls are empowered to share their narratives, make their voices heard, and advocate for critical matters. Our dedication to inclusivity is driven by our unwavering belief that a fairer and more just world will be ushered in by amplifying the voices of all individuals, including women and girls. In doing so, we aim to champion the innate and immutable equality of every human being.(1)

Navigating the nonprofit sector as a woman, like in many other fields, presents a blend of rewards and challenges. The nature of this experience is highly contingent on variables like location, the specific organization, and personal background. However, certain shared themes and challenges often characterize the journey for women in the nonprofit sector:

    • According to the American Association of University Women(2), women make up approximately 75% of the nonprofit workforce, but only 45% of nonprofit leadership* positions
      • 56% of CEO/ED positions in organizations with annual budget of less than $1 million
      • 22% of CEO/ED positions in organizations with annual budget of at least $50 million
    • Within governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations, women earn $0.85 for each $1 earned by men(3)
    • In 2022’s list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, only four are in the Philanthropy/Nonprofit category and only one of those four is a woman of color(3)

* Leadership: executive staff positions, senior or executive vice presidents, CFO, COO, etc.

Not dissimilar from the for-profit sector, it is difficult for women to have a family and come back to work. There are little to no protections unless your organization highly values parental leave. Compared to paternity leave, maternity leave can leave those in the workforce vulnerable or, worse, having to choose between their families and their profession. Due to wage gaps, salary compression, lack of access to benefits, and bias, women in nonprofits are often burnt out or end up leaving the sector to find a better opportunity. Together, we can change that.

In my experience, women deem ourselves unworthy and suffer from imposter syndrome. Also, given the discrepancy between men and women in leadership roles, we don’t have leaders who understand how to support and prioritize our growth. Women are also at a disadvantage when it comes to mentors, networks, and professional relationships; 63% of women have never had a mentor.(3) To prioritize career growth, we need to expand our network on our own and advocate for our own professional development opportunities, including job shadowing and mentorship programs.

When it comes to women in the nonprofit profession, there is room for everyone to succeed – we do not need more competition between or among women. Across all sectors and segments of the population, most people more readily associate leadership with men than with women. This means that women seeking promotions and senior leadership positions may face subtle or implicit bias that can prevent them from achieving their goals. Even when women are in the majority, as among nonprofit employees, subtle bias against women in leadership may still be common in the workplace.(2) Typically, this bias bleeds into the development aspect of nonprofits and many women have a tougher time fundraising due to implicit or known bias.

Who you are and what you’ve experienced influence your professional values and your vision of success – this representation matters. Thus, my advice is to embrace your core values and intersectionality between identity, power, and privilege, then show up in a way that is genuine to that intersectionality. This includes, for example, being a parent, BIPOC identity, LGBTQ+ status, being a survivor of trauma or abuse, and immigrant status, among others. “With self-reflection that leads to intentional self-investment, we learn our worth and become able to fight for it unapologetically.”(3)

Steps to move forward:

    • Fight for a seat at the table and find what fulfills you
    • Advocate for yourself and your professional growth
    • Don’t let them overlook you or your professional talents
    • Foster and support workplaces that promote success and advancement
    • Embrace an abundance mentality where there’s room for everyone to succeed
    • Speak up when you see someone being treated unfairly
    • Create and communicate your professional boundaries

It’s important to note that the experiences of women in the nonprofit sector are diverse, and many factors, such as the specific organization, individual career choices, and local cultural norms, can significantly impact one’s experience. Many women find fulfillment in the nonprofit sector, as they are driven by a sense of purpose and the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. However, they may also encounter some of the existing challenges associated with gender disparities and work-life balance. Efforts to promote gender equality and diversity within the nonprofit sector are ongoing and can lead to a more inclusive and equitable environment for women. Progress is being made incrementally, but much work can be done to ensure all folx have equal access, pay, and representation in the nonprofit sector.


  1. Women’s Voices Now. Inclusion Statement.
  2. American Association of University Women. Broken Ladders: Barriers to Women’s Representation in Nonprofit Leadership.
  3. DonorPerfect. The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women.