Too Many Non-Profit Boards Lack Diversity

Too Many Non-Profit Boards Lack Diversity

By: Kenneth Anderson Taylor, Chicago Tribune

 

You may not recognize the name Tarana Burke. She’s the black woman who founded the #MeToo movement a decade ago to support women of color who survive sexual harassment and assault.

 

Although this movement has mostly directed attention to work-related abuses involving white women since it hit critical mass in 2017, it also speaks to me as a black man because of the racial discrimination I personally experienced many years ago as a nonprofit CEO.

 

Today, I blame that predicament on the lack of diversity among the leadership of my nonprofit’s board. Imbalances of power create opportunities for the people who have historically called the shots to abuse their authority — whether that means paying people of color less than whites for the same work or committing the kinds of outrages that the #MeToo movement and its offshoots are now bringing to light.

 

Here’s the big picture: At a time when only 61.3 percent of Americans are white, about 84 percent of nonprofit board members are in that demographic group, along with 90 percent of nonprofit board chairs. When BoardSource, which strives to improve nonprofit management, released this data in 2016, it predicted little progress:

 

“Despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics — particularly racial and ethnic diversity — boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices.”

 

The leadership ranks of nonprofits are, it turns out, a bit more racially and ethnically diverse than their corporate counterparts. Yet I believe nonprofits typically have more of an imperative than private companies to get this right because of their missions.

 

Do-gooders can do better

 

This matters because boards of directors supervise the nation’s nearly 1.6 million nonprofits, providing financial oversight and strategic guidance. In addition, they help with fundraising and hire and manage the group’s top staff. Most board members are volunteers.

 

Nonprofits, such as medical research institutions, houses of worship and shelters for sexual abuse victims, usually fill gaps between what the government and private sector do. A large share of them serve communities with great needs, a population that is disproportionately made up of people of color.

 

Strangely, nonprofit decision-makers seem to either not understand or don’t believe that relying on overly white leadership is at odds with their missions.

 

My own experience illustrates the travails that leaders of color may experience within nonprofits.

 

After spending nine years working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest youth mentoring organization, I was thrilled to move from its national headquarters in Philadelphia for a job as temporary CEO of its Austin, Texas, affiliate.

 

I was even more excited when the board wanted to hire me permanently six months later. But my enthusiasm soon fizzled upon discovering that the same board that unanimously wanted me to lead the organization also collectively decided to pay me thousands of dollars less than my predecessor — a white woman with less experience than me who had approximately the same academic credentials.

 

Attempting to negotiate a more equitable salary with a board that was all white aside from one black man discouraged me further. I was simply told the matter was not up for discussion. After all, the board’s president-elect stated, I “didn’t have to say yes” and it was the first time I would be serving in this capacity — as it had been for the CEO I was replacing.

 

Just imagine dedicating nine years of your life to an organization with the goal of becoming its CEO, having that dream come true and then realizing your hard work had culminated in an offer to be paid far less than the person you were to replace.

 

Though I eventually accepted the board’s offer based on what I believed to be right in terms of my career path, in my heart I knew I was discriminated against in terms of compensation.

 

Old patterns

 

While most nonprofit staff leaders and board members say they are extremely dissatisfied with this gap, they do little to correct it. In fact, they ignore basic and logical remedies.

 

Most do not make diversity a high priority when they recruit new leaders, for example. As James Westphal of the University of Michigan and Edward Zajac of Northwestern University found in 1995, most board members are identified and recruited through informal practices that are rarely rigorous or systematic.

 

This convention hasn’t changed. Unsurprisingly, it yields recruits who resemble older board members.

 

As a result, new and former nonprofit board members are nearly identical in terms of their ethnic and racial backgrounds, even for groups claiming to value diversity. Maybe they do. But they must prove that.

 

I believe that nonprofit leaders can take some basic steps to draw more people of color into their upper ranks.

 

Since the leadership in most nonprofits is drawn from the board and upper management, a simple first step is to acknowledge the job dissatisfaction of employees of color. Ample research, including my own, indicates that they are generally less satisfied than whites.

 

Unsatisfied employees, whether white or people of color, are more likely to move on. This is especially true for nonprofits, whose employees routinely cite low pay when conveying the reasons for their discontent.

 

In addition, board members and top staff can make and communicate clear plans to achieve the goal of leadership diversity. Consistently communicating why it would advance the group’s mission — and is worth the trouble — is key. So is letting employees of color know that their input is highly valued.

 

Airing feedback from employees of color at board meetings helps, as does requiring nonprofit executives to identify, hire and mentor nonwhites for leadership roles.

 

With many nonprofits undergoing leadership successions today, there’s no time to waste.

 

The Conversation

Kenneth Anderson Taylor is an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.

 

 

 

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FIVE WOMEN OF COLOR WHO SHOULD BE ON YOUR RADAR

Five Women of Color Who Should Be On Your Radar

By: Lauren Wesley Wilson

 

(Forbes) - There is no doubt that 2018 is becoming the “Year of the Woman,” with the celebration of the first anniversary of the Women’s March to the launch of the Times Up Movement and much more to surely come. Our voices are actually being heard loud, clear, and more than ever before. I proclaim that this year will not only become the “Year of the Woman” but the year for women of color.

 

Women of color are making great strides in the workplace, breaking barriers, and becoming C-suite leaders with impact and influence. While there are many women of color who should be on your radar, I’ve narrowed it down to just five for now. These women are dynamic and making changes inside and outside their office. They’re not speaking at every conference or sucking up all the awards at every industry show. They are strategic where they spend their time, how they show up and what they deliver.

 

Get to know these five insightful women:

 

   

 

1. Rose Stuckey Kirk, President of the Verizon Foundation at Verizon

 

Why you should know her: Rose Stuckey Kirk became president of the Verizon Foundation eight years ago, but has been with Verizon since 1998. She is a shining example of how successful you can be despite gender or race. As a woman of color, she has broken the glass ceiling with her C-level position, serving as a chief corporate social responsibility officer. In her role at Verizon, she is able to provide access to new technology and STEM programs to youth who traditionally come from underserved communities. Rose delivers the type of speech that leaves audiences begging for more time and time again. She is poised, deliberate, and entertaining.

 

 

2. Gloria Mayfield Banks

 

Why you should know about her: Gloria is an internationally renowned motivational speaker who leads a successful sales team as the #1 ranked Elite National Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. Her latest book “Quantum Leaps” outlines the steps to take to excel in your life. Gloria has spoken all over the nation on topics such as women empowerment and instilling leadership goals in girls. Gloria is an electrifying speaker and will keep you focused and holding on to every word. She has overcome domestic violence and dyslexia. Her podcast "Women Do It Better" has Gloria speaking about the gifts we all have and how to find, understand, and master them in order to excel in your personal and professional life. She is a force to be reckon with.

 

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3. Susan Jin Davis, Vice President Environmental Affairs, Chief Sustainability Officer, Comcast/NBCUniversal

 

Why you should know her: Hilarious, intelligent, and spot on. Susan Jin Davis knows her worth and the stakeholders she serves. In her time at Comcast, Susan negotiated a historic memorandum of understanding between Comcast and the Asian American community as part of the Company’s merger with NBCUniversal, creating an unheard of commitment in the areas of programming, supplier and employment diversity and community investment. She serves on Comcast’s Internal Diversity Council and is a Company liaison to the Comcast and NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council. Susan is also an executive sponsor of Asian Pacific Americans at Comcast, a Company Employee Resource Group.

 

 

4. Radhika Jones, Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair

 

Why you should know her: Radhika is not only the first ever Indian American to be Editor in Chief at Vanity Fair, but she is also the first woman of color to ever be Editor in Chief since the publication’s inception in 1913. Radhika Jones is a Harvard University graduate and has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia, where she was also a lecturer. Her position in Vanity Fair has broken new grounds, and will hopefully open the door for other women of color to be in such roles in the near future.

 

 

5. Linda Sarsour, Political Activist and Co-Chair of the Women’s March Movement

 

Why you should know her: As a child of Palestinian immigrants, some of Linda’s early activism entailed defending the civil rights of Muslims living in America. She helped to organize the American Muslim community's response to the Black Lives Matter protests by forming "Muslims for Ferguson." In 2017, the organizers of the Women’s march recruited Sarsour as co-chair of the event. She became co-chair of 2017’s Day Without a Woman, which took place on International Women's Day. She is a loud and strong advocate for women’s rights as well as for underrepresented women of color around the nation.

 

Lauren Wesley Wilson is the founder of ColorCommwhich holds its annual ColorComm Conference for women of color in communications, marketing, & advertising. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

 

 

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