How Nonprofits Can Foster Female Leadership

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.

Research has shown that leadership teams with gender diversity are stronger and more successful. Despite these operating advantages, the majority of nonprofit organizations still lack diversity at the upper-management level—even in a sector with a mostly female workforce and where the role of diversity has long been understood.

At Turnaround Life, we work with a variety of nonprofits that are striving to improve diversity at the highest levels of leadership. We have a series of recommendations that facilitate needed progress and change in this important work.

What your organization can do to improve nonprofit leadership gender diversity

Help women network within your organization

Women face unique challenges at work and establishing a network of female executives in your nonprofit is a good first step to fostering open discussion about those issues and the ways your nonprofit can increase female leadership in your organization.

Equal pay for men and women in leadership roles

While this should be an obvious solution, the pay gap is still a problem in every industry. If an organization can afford a salary of a certain amount for a man, it can provide the same salary for a woman; it’s that simple.

Encourage women to say “yes” to opportunity

Females assume that if they do their best, people will recognize it and they’ll get the promotion. (Men, by contrast, draw attention to their comparisons and ask for promotions.) But that isn’t always the case. Women need more visibility and also an advocate to move forward. This is where a mentor, or a mentoring program, can help.

Mentor qualified women

Mentoring for leadership skills is a proven way to foster female leadership. Also, encouraging a collaborative culture between women can make a massive difference in the professional advancement of female leaders.

Among other things, mentoring helps women understand that they don’t have to have all of the qualifications for the job before applying. The strong bonds built also boost their confidence in their own professional skills. Mentoring is even more necessary in male-dominated professions, where women usually face bigger challenges.

Provide training opportunities

Establishing job-related education and training fosters female labor force participation, leadership and entrepreneurship.

Formal training, like structured training courses and professional workshops, should be encouraged and regularly undertaken. Also, periodic informal training, where employees share knowledge and experience, equips your rising female leaders.

Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.

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