Women’s Work?

At the annual "Making Media Connections" conference of the Community Media Workshop a few weeks ago, I attended a panel about radio’s role in drawing attention to the work of nonprofits.  Midway through the discussion among four radio producers, an audience member asked why none of the panelists were women when most charities are female-run.  Moderator and CMW Executive Director Thom Clark was quick to shield the radio stations from responsibility for the lack of gender balance, saying he’d been the one to assemble the panel and he’d been concerned with "a different kind of diversity" when he did so–but the exchange made me wonder:

Do charities get so little attention in the media because the press is run by men and charities by women?  It’s a source of continuous frustration to people in the nonprofit sector that our work gets attention only when it’s marred by scandal, and we’ve long wondered why, exactly, that should be the case.  But given that media decision-makers, and experts quoted in news reports, are overwhelmingly male, maybe it just follows naturally that a sector well-endowed with women leaders would get pretty thoroughly ignored.

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3 Responses to “Women’s Work?”

  1. Jennifer Vanasco Says:

    Hmmmm. I don’t know about that. I don’t think it’s bias so much as the Old Boy’s Network—that is, women in non-profit work have a strong network, male journalists have a strong network, and they don’t meet.

    When I did non-profit PR and regularly took (mostly male) reporters to lunch, I found them interested. They wrote stories. They quoted those women and men I suggested to them.

    But if I didn’t seek them out, there is no way I would have just run into them, since I tend to operate in a world run by women.

    Perhaps women who lead non-profits just need to make sure they keep expanding their network beyond the comfortable world of non-profit women.

  2. Pam Ashlund Says:

    Good question. Here’s another one: are most nonprofits run by women? I know it was true historically, but I haven’t read the demographics. Wages aren’t so bad anymore so perhaps the fields is attracting more of the opposite sex.

  3. Nonprofiteer Says:

    It turns out to be remarkably difficult to answer this question–the biggest survey on employment in the sector, being run by Johns Hopkins, starts off by complaining how poor the information is! But according to the Nonprofit Times, in February 2005:

    “Returning to salary trends, the discrepancy between male and female executive directors’ pay is explained partly by the concentration of male executive directors at nonprofits with high revenues.

    Nearly 15 percent of men held the leadership position at organizations with $25 million or more in revenue. Roughly 5 percent of women held the top spot in that budget category.

    The wider salary gap between men and women reverses previous salary survey reports that suggested women’s pay was gaining on men. . . .

    This news comes even as females hold a higher percentage of executive director positions at all organizational budget sizes included in the survey when men and women are grouped together. Overall, women held 56.3 percent of executive director positions. Men held 43.7 percent. Again men edged women at the largest organizations. Approximately 6 percent of men were executive directors at organizations with $25 million or more in revenue compared with nearly 3 percent of women who held posts at the same budget size.”

    So there are more of us than of them, but not by nearly as much as I had believed. Thanks for making me check my assumptions against the facts.

    But if women predominate, AND are concentrated at smaller agencies, then I suspect that’s considered two strikes against their organizations when they seek media coverage–they’re small fry AND they’re run by girls.

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