The Council on Foundations recently released a report, The State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector. In it, they reveal that their research shows that women and people of color are still underrepresented in the philanthropic sector.
For example, the researchers found that despite the fact that women are over-represented in the philanthropy world, and they seem to have found opportunity there. However, women and racial or ethnic minorities are not equally represented within different levels of the 267 organizations that participated in the study, and the proportion of women and racial/ethnic minorities on staff have changed very little over the past decade.
The representation of women and racial or ethnic minorities decreases as you move up the career ladder from administrative to professional to the executive level.
There has been a small positive change in the share of racial and ethnic minority staff, as the number of minority staff reported has moved from 22.65 percent to 24.33 percent from 2006 through 2015.
However, what’s really missing is data about other diverse populations. As Floyd Mills of the Council on Foundations writes, “Even our large dataset…lacked sufficient data for us to be able to conduct any meaningful analysis with regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical/intellectual disability.”
Mills asks the questions, “Are the LGBTQ population and people with disabilities simply underrepresented within the talent pool available to the sector? Are survey respondents reluctant to report on these particular demographics?”
Either one of these could be true, but I suggest that it’s more likely to be hesitancy to report sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status. “Any perceived stigma associated with the disability and the degree to which the disclosure may influence an employee’s experience in the workplace would likely influence his or her decision, as will the extent to which the sector as a whole is inclusive of people with disabilities,” said Mills
One former nonprofit employee, who prefers to remain anonymous, said that she didn’t report her mental illness for fear of reprisals. “Although the foundation gave lip service to diversity and inclusion,” she said, “I sensed an undercurrent of a different attitude. This was particularly true when I had an episode of severe depression that affected my job performance. I was never asked what was going on or offered any kind of support. Instead, after five years of stellar work, I got a punitive performance evaluation and was threatened with being fired. Needless to say, I left that organization as soon as I could.”
Not only that, but the philanthropic world doesn’t have a tool like the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which would give potential employees a way of measuring an organization’s friendliness to the LGBTQ population.
“While some may be content to argue that the world of philanthropy is a ‘good’ place to work, not to mention one that attracts and serves people from a variety of backgrounds, the fact remains that the data on sexual orientation and gender identity within the sector is not representative of the nation’s growing diversity,” Mills wrote.
The point is that the nonprofit world needs more diversity at every level, and particularly in the executive population. Each nonprofit should examine its true beliefs about diversity and inclusion. Just because a statement about non-discrimination based on protected categories appears in the employee handbook, that doesn’t mean it’s the reality of its employees’ behavior.
How have you worked to encourage diversity and inclusion in your organization? Please share your thoughts in the comments.