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The Boston Club

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Boston Club

on 17 April 2017

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Transcript of The Boston Club

Modest Gains
The 2017 Census of Women Directors and Chief Executives of Massachusetts’ Largest Nonprofit Organizations
The biennial
Census of Women Directors and Chief Executives of Massachusetts’ Largest Nonprofit Organizations
has not only been an invaluable resource in keeping track of women’s progress in leadership positions, but also in holding ourselves accountable. This
report sheds light on what we as women have accomplished and what we should do next.
These were the most salient findings from our report
Gender diversity on boards shows only modest growth
Women directors reveal the challenges and benefits of board service
Nonprofit sector shows substantial growth
Gender diversity on boards shows only modest growth
Executive suites show better gender representation, but limited racial diversity
Women directors reveal the challenges and benefits of board service
Nonprofit sector shows substantial growth
The three primary motivations cited for joining nonprofit boards were
Passion for the mission
Opportunity for learning
Professional benefits
Three major barriers to successful board engagement were mentioned:
board culture,
gender composition of the board,
and the board socialization process.
Despite the challenges, board service was considered inherently beneficial by providing personal, professional, and relationship development.
Educational institutions serving only women, or founded to do so, have more women on their boards
An analysis of the educational institutions with 50% or more women on their boards offers some insight into how constituents served by an organization can shape the board.
The four institutions with 82% or more women on the boards have admitted only women to their undergraduate programs since their inception and currently have women CEOs.
Representation of women as CEOs varies by sector and revenue
Organizations in the Arts, Culture, Humanities, Science, Technology, Research, and Engineering have no women CEOs in this Census.
Education (34%) and Human Services (9%) organizations have above average representation of women CEOs.
The nonprofits with revenues over $1 billion or those with the lowest revenues ($100 million or less) have the highest percentage of women CEOs (38% and 36%, respectively).
Robust Benefits
Danna Greenberg & Wendy Murphy, Babson College
From these confidential interviews, four central themes were identified on how and why women engage in nonprofit board work:
1) underlying motivation for joining a board,
2) the joining process,
3) barriers to and
4) benefits of board membership.
Motivation for Joining a Nonprofit Board
Women had three major motivations: passion for the mission, opportunities to learn, and professional advantages.
Women reported they chose to join a board as a result of their passion as defined by a connection and commitment to the mission of the nonprofit organization.
Opportunities to Learn
Board service provides opportunities to learn, whether from the type of work being done, the board itself, or the people in the organization.
Personal Advantages
The Process of Joining a Board: Access and Agency
The process of joining a board came about through two interconnected dynamics: 1) access through professional and nonprofit network relationships and 2) agency to pursue and shape a board position in which they could be successful.
Beyond access, agency was the other key component of joining a nonprofit board and refers to how women: 1) used their networks to learn about board positions, 2) pursued and evaluated the board position, and 3) shaped the board role to fit their capabilities. In order to learn about board roles, many women actively and strategically engaged their networks.
A critical part of this process for many women was assessing the fit with the board. Women evaluated whether the board and the organizational culture were a good fit for them, just as they would for a new job.
Approaching the board role from the perspective of a negotiation helped women ensure that the roles they were taking met their needs and were roles in which they could be successful.

Recommendations for Women Interested in Serving on Major Nonprofit Boards
Start Small
Develop Your Passion Story
Cultivate your network
Shape, don’t just accept,
a board role
Actively manage your
board entry process
Start small
None of the women we interviewed started their “nonprofit careers” serving on major nonprofit boards; rather, they built on a foundation of small board service. This work enabled women to develop their understanding of the nonprofit sector, of functional and dysfunctional board dynamics, and of how to have influence as a board member.
Develop your passion story
Many of the women had an “elevator pitch” about their passion, a story about the type of nonprofit work they did, why they were interested in this particular work, and the impact they wanted to have through this work. This helped women identify and secure board positions and empowered them to cultivate other board members and organizational donors.
Cultivate your network
Successful cultivation of networks goes beyond seeking the next role. It is important to regularly strengthen existing relationships as well as to cultivate new ones by attending women’s networking groups and different professional or nonprofit events, and regularly connecting with individuals in both one’s professional and nonprofit networks.
Shape, don’t just accept, a board role
Take time to meet board members and the CEO to find out how the board works, and to understand the board’s relationship to the organization, and the gender and ethnic composition and dynamics. Determine how you can add value and in what environment you can be successful. Clarify and negotiate specific responsibilities such as time, committee service, and expected financial contributions.
Actively manage your board entry process
Women are more confident and capable in their board roles, even without going through a formal socialization process, when they actively manage their onboarding experience. Build relationships with senior board members to learn more about the history and culture of the board. Increase your knowledge by reading and studying the organization’s financial records.
More findings...
Executive suites show better gender representation, but limited racial diversity
The opportunity to join a board depended upon personal, professional and nonprofit networks
Access refers to the active ways in which women developed their networks so that opportunity for a board position would arise if and when they wanted to join a board.
Access arose as a result of both professional and nonprofit relationships. Professional relationships refer to people women worked with in the past, with whom they had mutual respect and admiration. These so-called “professional friends” would foster a match between the board’s needs and the woman’s interests.
View full results here:
Why Do Nonprofits Matter?

To Massachusetts

Why Do Nonprofits Matter?

To The Boston Club
Our mission is to impel the advancement of women to top leadership positions in the community
Identifying the largest nonprofits helps us target placement of women into significant and visible leadership roles

Full transcript