January 22, 2020
Major Mass. Nonprofits Stall in Adding Women to Their Boards

May 9, 2015 — Major nonprofits in Massachusetts made little progress in adding women to board and chief executive positions of major nonprofits over the last two years, according to a report from The Boston Club, released yesterday.

The 2015 census of women directors and chief executives of Massachusetts' largest nonprofit organizations, an analysis of the state's top 150 revenue-producing nonprofits, showed only a 1% increase in women board members in two years, according to research conducted by Simmons College.

"These are large boards serving major organizations; the smallest on the list have $65 million a year in revenue,” said Beverly A. Brown, chair of The Boston Club's Nonprofit Board Committee. “Why aren't there more women involved?"

The research also shows that boards with 50% women were more likely to have a woman CEO. Brown said that underscores the need to push for gender parity on boards: they hire the CEO.

The Boston Club is a private organization of women executives that looks to advance women to top leadership positions across all business sectors.

The 150 largest nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts that were studied generated $62.7 billion in revenues in 2012, the most recent year for which information is available. They include major hospitals and universities and account for the jobs of one in every six employed persons in Massachusetts. According to The Boston Club, nearly 49% of all employees in Massachusetts are women.

“The slow pace of progress revealed in this nonprofit census mirrors the glacial pace of gender diversity on the boards and in C-suites of the largest public companies in Massachusetts, which the Club has reported for 14 years, although the nonprofit ranks of women in leadership are larger,” the organization noted.

Professor Patricia Deyton, faculty director of the Center for Gender in Organizations at Simmons College, an author of the research, said, "In the first nonprofit census two years ago, we were pleased to find 35% women board members, which is much higher than for-profit public companies in Massachusetts.

"At some point in time these organizations made some good decisions and we hope the lack of progress over this two-year period doesn't indicate a trend."

Among the report’s key findings were the following:
  • 14 out of 150 organizations have over $1 billion annual revenues; four of them are led by women
  • Only 1% increase in the percentage of women board members (from 35% to 36%)
  • The actual number of women holding board seats declined, mirroring a decline in the total number of seats
  • 22 (15%) organizations have boards with at least 50% women, an increase of only one organization in two years
  • The total share of organizations with women chief executives increased by 3% (20% to 23%)
"There is an ample supply of qualified women ready to add their skills and talent to the leadership of nonprofit boards and executive suites from the ranks of our club and beyond," said Claire Muhm, president of The Boston Club. "We will continue to share the resumes of these impressive candidates with the top nonprofits to help them diversify their leadership."

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