June 21, 2018
Women Make Gains as Leaders at the Largest Bay State Nonprofits

April 27, 2017 — A report released today indicates that the ranks of women chief executives at the 150 largest Massachusetts nonprofits grew in recent years—now accounting for 26% of those jobs, up from 23% two years ago—but remains significantly lower than the sector overall where 68% of the top slots are filled by women.

The report, issued by The Boston Club, a private organization of women executives that looks to advance women to top leadership positions across all business sectors, notes "steady progress in the number of women chief executives" at the largest nonprofits in Massachusetts, as ranked by annual revenue. In 2013, women held 20% of those jobs.

There also has been a slight increase in the number of Massachusetts nonprofits with three or more female board members – 142 in 2017, up from 136 in 2015 and 124 in 2013.

According to the report, women hold 35% of the board seats in those largest organizations, unchanged from the last report issued two years ago.

The new report notes that the modest growth in the leadership and board ranks among the largest Massachusetts nonprofits stands in contrast to the 14% gain in annual revenue at those 150 organizations over the last two years.

The organizations included in the study ranged from the smallest, South Middlesex Opportunity Council in Framingham, with annual revenue of $68 million, to the largest Partners HealthCare System in Boston, with annual revenue of $11 billion.

According to Third Sector New England, a Boston-based nonprofit advisor to nonprofits, women account for 68% of leaders and 59% of board members at Massachusetts nonprofits.

The third biennial Census of Women Directors and Chief Executives of Massachusetts’ Largest Nonprofit Organizations also found that:
  • Organizations with male CEOs had boards with an average of 33% women, compared to organizations with female CEOs, whose boards had 41% women directors.

  • 94% of the 150 organizations have three or more women on their boards, an increase from 88% in 2015. Only three organizations have one woman on their boards, while five have two women directors.

  • 26 of the organizations have 50% or more women directors, representing an increase of five organizations over both the 2013 and 2015 reports.

  • Only 10% of the CEOs of the 150 largest nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts self-report as people of color.

  • Educational institutions serving only women, or founded to serve women, have more women on their boards.

  • Nonprofits with more than $1 billion in annual revenue or those with the lowest revenues ($100 million or less) have the highest percentage of women CEOs, 38% and 36% respectively.

  • Women account for nearly 35% of board members among nonprofits with $500 million to $999 million in revenue, up slightly from previous years.
The opportunity to join a board depended upon professional and nonprofit networks, The Boston Club reported, noting that major barriers to successful board engagement include board culture, gender composition of the board, and the board socialization process.

"Despite the challenges, board service was considered inherently beneficial by providing personal development, professional skill development, and relationship development," the report notes. "Women emphasized that their board work was an overwhelmingly positive part of their lives, providing meaning and purpose."

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