Research | Women’s Voices - Stories about working in Ontario’s nonprofit sector

publication date: Oct 9, 2018
author/source: Ontario Nonprofit Network

The nonprofit sector’s distinctive features, challenges, and trends significantly impact its labour force, one that consists of 80% women workers. However, we know very little about how diverse women are faring in the sector. How do challenges women face in the broader labour market particularly manifest and impact different women working in the sector (such as the gender wage gap, ‘glass ceilings’, and leaky leadership pipelines)?

Given the critical intersections between labour, the nonprofit sector, and women, ONN has been exploring this question by applying a gender-based intersectional lens (GBA+) to its decent work movement. It’s part of ONN’s decent work for women project that is identifying barriers to women workers’ economic empowerment in the sector and developing and implementing solutions to address these barriers at the organizational, network, and policy levels. We have made it a priority to hear from and amplify women’s voices that are not often heard from across identities, geographies, age groups, and position levels.

Over the past couple of months we engaged self-identifying women in learning circles and a survey to share their employment experiences of working in Ontario’s nonprofit sector and recommendations for change. This report reflects what we heard from the 730 women participants, their perspectives, experiences, observances, and opinions, in their own voices.

Their voices are grouped into three themes: feminization of the sector, discrimination in a feminized sector, and conversation to action. Quotes in these sections come from what women said in both the learning circles and survey. They have been anonymized.

While there are regional and subsector differences in experiences, what was striking was that participants overwhelmingly said the same things across Ontario. The themes may not reflect all women’s experiences nor be unique to only women or to the nonprofit sector. However, they reinforce the urgency of not only exploring labour force issues in the nonprofit sector, but doing so from a GBA+ lens.

All participants across frontline, middle management, and senior leadership positions have put a lot of time and energy into building nonprofit organizations from the ground up. They are professionals with a variety of skills, experiences, and academic backgrounds, strong leaders adapting to changing political and social climates, fervent advocates for their communities, clients, peers, and staff where they are at the frontlines of change, and their passion for the work is irreplaceable.

There is immense power in convening women across the sector, whether in person or virtually, to share their stories of successes, challenges, and passion in the nonprofit sector. We hope our work is only the beginning of these conversations and convening.

You can download the full report here. 

ONN: Engaging, advocating, and leading with – and for – nonprofits working for the public benefit in Ontario

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