Jeanne Tedrow, President & CEO, North Carolina Center for Nonprofits
About 9.2 million American women (of 12.29 million workers) work in the nonprofit sector. That is 75% of the nonprofit workforce, which is the third largest workforce in the country.
In March, we celebrate women all over the world and especially our women colleagues in the nonprofit sector. These women work for and support nonprofits that complement and supplement all aspects of community care systems including education, health and mental health care, food services, arts and culture, and so much more.
All of this attention and accolades are well deserved. But beyond all this attention, or in spite of it, our reality is that gender inequities continue to exist, and gender inequities intersect with race, class, sex, and abilities.
As pandemic effects have and continue to strain the nonprofit workforce, we could use Women’s History Month and its theme “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories” to amplify the role of diverse women in our nonprofit sector, recognize their needs, and take the opportunity to strengthen inclusion in our organizations.
An example from the Center’s EDI Roundtables series, we are encouraging “Brave Spaces for Bold Action” and dialogue that delves into nonprofit operations, practices, and culture through an equity lens. This environment recognizes that mistakes can be made, that we learn from our experiences, and we can offer grace to those trying to make a difference. We are heartened to hear nonprofit leaders express the will to reach more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organizations. While these conversations uncover challenges, they also identify opportunities for change.
While some of these challenges may feel difficult, there are practical steps that can be taken to move organizations toward reaching their own goals. We’ll continue to share resources that help nonprofits build their EDI toolbox.
And these brave conversations could be held within and among nonprofits in communities across the state, starting with these community guidelines that we established for our own EDI Roundtable conversations:
- Be aware of my own privileges (seen and unseen)
- Practice confidentiality
- Be open to move from comfort zone to stretch zone
- Use compassionate communication – listen to hear, empathize, understand, rather than to prepare a response
- Practice self-care and community care – if someone says, “ouch,” I will say “oops!” and engage.
We are finding that having these conversations engage leaders across gender, race, class, sex, and abilities to open up and share their lived experiences. As we converse, we develop and deepen relationships, and as we do, we can help each other along the way and find ourselves stronger for the journey.