Women have long been at the forefront of non-profit organizations. From Clara Barton founding the American Red Cross to today’s women forming groups to help many others, women have always volunteered their time and talents for the betterment of society.
But among non-profit boards, gender diversity remains a controversial topic. Today, while more women than ever are at the helm of corporations worldwide, they may still be under-represented around the non-profit boardroom table.
New global data indicate that some countries have made good progress adding women to non-profit boards while men continue to dominate in other areas. The state of gender diversity among non-profit boards worldwide is discussed below.
Gender Proportions Among Worldwide Boards
Within countries that have an established gender quota for boards, women are well represented. In non-quota markets such as the U.S., that number is lower.
Globally, boards comprise about 14% women. Five countries are above 30%: Norway, France, Latvia, Iceland, and Finland. Canada and Australia have tougher disclosure laws and as such, are making better progress towards gender equality in board representation.
What’s Stopping Board Diversity?
Female board nominees face numerous challenges when seeking seats on boards. Boards place an emphasis on collegiality, and females facing an all-male board may find themselves outside of an established male group.
It’s also a fact that people tend to invite business and social colleagues to be members of their boards. Women may not be part of these established networks, and it may take time for women to make inroads into groups that lead to board nominations.
Lastly, men and women view the need for board diversity differently. Women tend to place a greater emphasis on the need for diversity, while about half as many men feel the same way.
The Benefits of Diversity on Boards
Women bring a different perspective to discussions when they sit on corporate boards. There are many benefits of having women on corporate and non-profit boards of directors. These benefits include:
- Differences in work styles and communications
- Differences in relationships, with an emphasis on trust and teamwork among women
- Greater emphasis on civil discourse and discussion
- More independent and creative thinking
- Less emphasis on conformity
Such new thinking and differences in perspectives can lead to improved problem solving, creative solutions to problems, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities.
Recommendations for Women
There are several recommendations that women seeking board service can implement to obtain their goals. Women in accounting may have more opportunities for board service than others because accountants are often in demand for board positions regardless of gender. Their ability to process detailed financial information may make them a desirable board candidate.
Women should also consider joining professional groups and organizations. Such groups may lead to colleagues who can recommend them for board positions and who know their expertise and abilities. Like the so-called ‘old boy’s network’, these networks of professional friendships help people connect to opportunities.
Although men and women are equally capable of serving on boards, each brings a different perspective to a non-profit. Both will serve well, given their abilities and talents match the needs of a board. Non-profit boards would do well to consider adding more women to the table – the board table, that is.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.