Women in Nonprofits: Does Representation Equate to Leadership & Pay Equity?

Women represent 75 percent of people working in nonprofit organizations in the United States. 

One might think because they make up such a high percentage of staffing that they would have equal leadership positions and pay compared to their male counterparts.

However, research shows that just because women represent a high percentage of positions in the nonprofit sector that there is no equity.

Unfortunately, there are a large number of systemic issues tied to this, and we go deeper into this in our full webinar, “Celebrating Women in Nonprofits”.

#1: Inequity in Leadership Positions for Women in Nonprofits

Board Directors: Overall, there is an average gap of board of directors with women on the board. In a report done by the American Association of University Women, 42 percent of board members are women. 

While this might not feel far from the overall mark of 50 percent, just remember that 75 percent of people within nonprofit organizations are women. 

Chief Executive Officer/ Executive Director: Within the space of the CEOs/Executive Directors running a nonprofit, things may look a little more equal at first

You see, for nonprofit organizations that receive $1 million and under in annual operating revenue, 56 percent are run by women CEOs/Executive Directors

However, as soon as we hit over $1 million+ in annual operating revenue, only 22 percent of CEOs/Executive Directors are women.

This is disconcerting.

#2: Inequity in Pay for Women in Nonprofits

So if mostly women are represented within nonprofits, they must get paid the same, right?


Overall, women who work in the nonprofit sector get paid 24.8 percent less than males in the nonprofit sector. 

Even women CEOs/Executive Directors suffer pay inequities compared to male CEOs/Executive Directors of nonprofits. 

Just like the waning of representation in leadership roles when a nonprofit’s budget grows, we also see pay gaps between the genders widen. 

Women CEOs/Executive Directors of nonprofit organizations with an annual operating budget of less than $1 million experience median pay gaps of (on average) between 6 percent and 13 percent relative to male CEOs.

Women CEOs/Executive Directors of nonprofit organizations with an annual operating budget of more than $1 million experience  median pay gaps of (on average) 18 percent relative to male CEOs.


Even though three out of four people who work in a nonprofit are female (on average), it does not mean that they have equal representation in leadership positions or pay.

We see that even freelance grant writers (82 percent are female) who serve nonprofits, also are not paid equal to men. 

This sector cannot assume that because there is a high representation of women that there is equity. 

Therefore, it is important for nonprofits to analyze their leadership representation and pay scales. 

If you want more information about how to analyze your nonprofit organization for equity, dive into the Free Webinar: “Celebrating Women in Nonprofits: How Nonprofit Leaders can Identify Gender Inequity & Create a Path Toward Equity”.