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Home > Research Articles > Women of color on rise

The Philanthropy Journal

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Minority women heading nonprofits more educated, experienced and isolated than other executive directors.

Women of color increasingly are running nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area but may face higher hurdles than do their white or male counterparts, a new study says.

Those women are better educated, have longer nonprofit experience and are more likely to have been managers in government or business, says the study by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, a consulting and training firm.

Women of color who serve as executive directors also are more likely to have been hired from within, lack access to people in power and work against stereotypes tied to race, ethnicity, gender or age, says the study.

Drawn from a sample of 125 women of color who are nonprofit executive directors in the region, the study is based on a written survey of 49 female leaders plus in-depth interviews.

The typical woman of color heading a Bay Area nonprofit, according to a composite profile, is a first-time executive director, has served nearly four years and runs an organization with an annual budget of $1 million to $5 million and a median staff of 12.

That nonprofit is likely to focus on health or human services and serve mainly people of color, who make up roughly half its staff and board.

The typical woman of color serving as executive director has a master's degree, has worked for nonprofits for 14 years and has one year of for-profit management experience.

She is 40 to 49 years old, married and the mother of two grown children.

One in four women of color who heads a nonprofit in the region is an immigrant.

Cut off from the 'corridors of power" and struggling against stereotypes, the study says, that woman "looks forward to being active in a network of women executive directors of color, and wants to see the network develop an advocacy agenda for working with government and philanthropy."

CompassPoint says it will convene a steering committee whose initial task will be to develop a one-day conference for women executive directors of color.

"Women executive directors of color, leading both minority and mainstream organizations, are important contributors to community-based human services, to civil rights and environmental advocacy, to the arts and to every aspect of the nonprofit sector," the study says.

"In addition," it says, "they may well be the face of the next generation of nonprofit leadership."