You need more women in your non-profit boardroom!

rosie the riviterLast week I was out to lunch with two male non-profit friends in downtown Chicago when the topic of women board volunteers came up. This happens from time-to-time, and when it does I always bite my tongue because I tend to have strong opinions on this subject. So, I took a deep breath and prepared for what I assumed was going to be one of those “difficult and uncomfortable conversations“. Boy oh boy . . .was I wrong (and pleasantly surprised).
Let me start by explaining what I mean by “I have strong opinions . . .” The fact of the matter is that my opinions are sexist (at least I think they are). When I am engaged in conversations about non-profit board development and I’m feeling bold, I like to say, “If you want lots of discussion in the boardroom about what ‘should’ happen, then recruit a lot of men to serve on your board because they will talk a subject to death. If you want something done, recruit some women because they are the ‘do-ers’ of our society.
A good friend of mine would respond to this by saying, “All generalizations, including this one, are incorrect.
So, I usually shy away from sharing this opinion because:

  1. It feels like a sexist thought
  2. It has gotten me in trouble in the past and sparked heated discussions
  3. The “all generalizations” comment is usually right on target

Let’s fast forward to my lunch conversation in downtown Chicago last week as I prepared for a lunch discussion that I assumed was going down the wrong road.
The first words out of one guy’s mouth were positive and progressive. He shared a story about the women on his board being extraordinarily active and engaged. The other guy talked about wanting to develop what used to be called in the old days a “women’s auxiliary” (and he was calling a Women’s Board). As I shook my head in amazement at the surprising turn this conversation quickly took, the most amazing thing happened. One of the guys validated what I keep referring to as “my sexist opinion” by pointing to research data that he just read about in the OpEd pages of the New York Times on October 23, 2013.
I couldn’t believe my ears, and I asked my lunch partners to please forward me that editorial column.
It arrived the next day in my email inbox. It almost looked like that one special Christmas present that you most prized and treasured as a child (and in the spirit of A Christmas Story read this as me saying that email was the equivalent of an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle).
The editorial was titled “Twitter, Women and Power,” and it was about the all male boardroom at Twitter, which was just a few weeks from launching its IPO on Wall Street.
I strongly encourage everyone who has any role in your non-profit organization’s board development to read this article. It is definitely worth the click! However, for those of you working with very little time today, here are a few of the major points from the article:

  • Domestic companies that have women board members earn a higher rate of return on invested capital
  • International companies with women on their boards earn a surprisingly higher amount of operating capital
  • During the recent government shutdown, it was our nation’s female legislators who were at the forefront of brokering a deal

After reading this New York Times editorial piece by Nicholas Kristof, I now feel empowered enough to admit that I think women are better fundraising volunteers than their male counterparts. (Uh-oh . . . that little voice inside my head is telling me to shut-up again.)
Does your agency have enough women in the boardroom? How does your board development committee ensure gender balance? What has been your experience on this issue? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and opinions.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. After reading your post about the line up change, I was waiting to the bottom to see if Rose was writing this, I was thinking good for her for jumping right in. But it’s you and I must say double thumbs up! Being in HR, we aren’t supposed to be general but sometimes it’s true. I think that part of the reason is a majority of women have not been in high level corporate positions. Many are used to the small business “roll your sleeves up” and get it done mentality. In corporate they come up with ideas and build a team to do it, in small business there aren’t the funds or the time to waste.

    1. Thank you my evil queen! 😉
      I love your blog which is why I subscribe and hope others from the DonorDreams blog community will do so too.
      Your comments about high level corporate positions vs small business mentality are right on target. I don’t know if you noticed, but the non-profit sector is full of women leaders. Hmmmmm?
      Please carry on an continue being evil because some of us crave that in your blog posts. 😉
      Oh yeah, please say hi to Jim for us.

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