A Few Good Men: Being Male in a Female-Majority Sector

We asked Blue Avocado's male readers to let us know their thoughts on being men in the majority-female nonprofit world. What we learned surprised us -- and raised new questions:

The facts are that women comprise 70-75% of nonprofit employees (Nonprofit Almanac 2007). The experience of Ed Seay of Help Network in Russellville, Arkansas, reflects this exactly: "You go to a United Way quarterly meeting," he remarked, "and there might be one other man in a room of 35 people." But this, as they say, is just the tip of the iceberg of what it's like for men who work in the female-majority nonprofit sector.

Male and female stereotypes

Readers' experiences show that gender stereotypes -- both pernicious and benign -- haven't gone away. There are stereotypes about men ("men who work in nonprofits are those who couldn't make it in the for-profit sector") and about women (women are good managers because they're nurturing rather than because they're strategic or rainmakers).

Several men spoke about being looked down upon for their nonprofit jobs by men in the for-profit sector. "I often get 'The Look' from men I know," commented one man. "My male friends work in the for-profit sector, they don't understand the nonprofit sector. The Look is the facial expression of 'Oh, how good of you to work in a nonprofit.'"

Another man said something similar: "In the for-profit sector I'm seen as a man who couldn't make it in the real world." Still another laughed: "The Look! At first it actually bothered me, my whole masculine identity being challenged." Then the nice guy in him couldn't help but add, "Then I saw it as an opportunity for education."

But Look or no Look, being the only man in a nonprofit organization tends to carry certain privileges, as one African American male reader (we'll call him "Ron") told us. "Being the only man in a female organization is like being the only white in a black school," Ron said. "Even though you're the minority, you have the confidence that comes from having spent most of your life in a dominant position."

Loneliness of the lone man

Blue Avocado readers expressed a range of reactions and responses -- amusement, embarrassment and proactive organizing -- to being the lone man in the office.
Sam Richardson of the Kentucky Historical Society is a bit rueful but not resentful about being the lone man: "Sometimes they stop talking when I walk into the room, but they joke about it. They are mindful when there's a guy here so they're more careful about personal things, jokes."

One over-60 man described a "cultural dissonance" with the 20-something women in his office: "They live in a different world than the one I know. And when they start to talk about boyfriends and their periods, I'm embarrassed. I try to just slip out of the room." States another older man: "Maybe I shouldn't be, but I can't help but being uncomfortable when a woman is breastfeeding in a meeting! In fact, I can't stand it!"

Carl Morrison volunteers as a leader in his local chapter of NALS...the Association for Legal Professionals, a group that works in a profession traditionally associated with women: legal secretaries, legal assistants, and paralegals. Carl has found the group very receptive to his idea of forming a "fraternity" so the "isolated men would realize they're not the only ones out there." This group will also be encouraging career counselors to suggest paralegal, legal assistant, and legal secretarial positions to men as well as to women.

Gender and fundraising

"In the theatre, the key audience demographic is women in their 40s to 60s," observed Kerry Watterson of the York Theatre Company. "As a result, it's helpful to have women staff who understand how to reach that demographic as both ticket buyers and donors." But David Fearn, who once worked in fundraising for an Akron battered women's shelter, offered a mirror observation: "If a man is talking about it, domestic violence seems more like something everybody should be concerned about; it takes it beyond being a women's issue."

Are women more nurturing?

In spite of occasional loneliness, many men find their female-dominated workplaces inviting. Should we be surprised -- or completely unsurprised -- that many men who work in women-majority organizations appreciate the qualities traditionally associated with women?

"Working in a female-majority sector means a workplace that is less competitive and more collaborative," said Shaun Daniel of Oregon Rural Action. "Women tend to place importance on employee well-being as well as getting the work done."

His comments were echoed by other men:

  • "I find it easier to work with women. Men often think they have all of the answers, while women want to hear other peoples' opinions."
  • "Women executives in the nonprofit world tend to be nurturing, supportive. They understand the need to groom a new generation."
  • "[Women] are able to exhibit their passion for the cause better than men . . . I really have to work at demonstrating the passion."

Another stereotype, of course, is exactly the opposite: that women are competitive with each other, undercutting, shrewish. And we did hear this from one attorney in a legal office where all the other staff are women: "there's no collegiality," and "everyone is passive-aggressive."

Of course, these characteristics -- both positive and negative -- are true of many men, too. It's hard to know how to react when someone describes a trait and attributes it to gender.

Tip of the gender iceberg?

When it comes to this gender imbalance, questions abound:

  • What's it like for men to be in the midst of the female-majority workplace culture often found in nonprofits?
  • How do stereotypes about gender roles play themselves out?
  • Chicken or the egg: Do women dominate in the sector because they can't compete in the for-profit sector? Or is the sector poorly paid because it is mostly women?
  • Why is the gender imbalance discussed only in passing, and not as a serious nonprofit matter? Should we be concerned or proud that the sector is led and dominated by women?

We seldom talk about the female-ness of the sector except in passing. Is it because it's more of a lightning rod topic than we would like to admit? Undeniably it can surface all kinds of issues, including some that link directly to deep-seated views about the gender divide in human nature.

Other concerns touch at the heart of societal power relationships. Choosing his words carefully, Ron wistfully noted, "When you're female or you're black, there's some part of you that feels 'lesser than' whether you recognize that consciously or not." Could it be that these unconscious views carry over into how both men and women think of ourselves as a sector?

What can we do to attract more men into the nonprofit sector -- to reflect the population and especially in positions where reaching male audiences is important? Should women leaders be proud or rueful about largely female staffs? How can we support women's leadership without reinforcing stereotypes about nurturing women? Or are all of these the wrong questions?

We hope this article sparks some serious conversations about the reasons for, the implications of, and what, if anything, we should think and do about the multiple dimensions of a female-majority nonprofit sector.

Our thanks to the many who contributed to this article, including Troy Arnold (Homeless Prenatal Program, San Francisco), Rick Cohen (Blue Avocado, Washington, DC), Shaun Daniel (Oregon Rural Action, La Grande), David Fearn (formerly Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, Cleveland), David Grabitsky (Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul), Dan Johnson, Carl Morrison (NALS...the Association for Legal Professionals, Tulsa), Sam Richardson (Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort), Ed Seay (Help Network, Russellville), Kerry Watterson (York Theatre Company, New York) and the many contributors who wished to remain anonymous.

See also in Blue Avocado:

Comments (39)

  • Anonymous

    I've worked with and for women for a lot of my career, even before I got into the non-profit sector, so I suppose I have a different perspective than some others. I won't say that I am "gender-blind;" I do see that I am surrounded by women, but I have always dealt with people as a person rather than on the basis of color or gender or whatever distinction we can come up with.

    With that said, I do find that working in an organization where I am one of two men and the only one who is around every day, I have become the "lift-and-tote" person, something that annoys me. I have found that, even if one of the women in the building could actually lift something or carry it somewhere, they tend to automatically call on me and ask me to do it. I know this to be true because our major program is a child care where many of the kids weigh more than what I'm being asked to carry, and, while the women have no trouble picking up the child, the object seems to be too heavy for them.

    Nonetheless I have found that I tend to work better in a female environment because, as Shaun Daniel says, I find the absence of testosterone and machismo much more conducive to actually accomplishing what I'm here to do. I have also found women to be less reactionary in decision making and leadership than most men -- after all, they don't have to prove they are "real men."

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Great response! I get to lift things and change light bulbs too! (And I'm the E.D.)

    My thought or question is that I do believe that the non-profit world suffers because it is difficult to attract qualified men to staff and board positions. I direct an organization that supports leaders as they develop their organizations and communities. So - we train, consult and mediate. We have almost never had men volunteer to work with us - and to recruit professionals in the field is very difficult.

    To be honest - I've wondered it it connects to some of the traditional roles for men & women. Men, I believe, knowingly or unknowing feel the weight of being a successful 'bread winner' or as it is phrased in many of the indigenous communities we work in "being a good hunter." (Whether they have a family or not.) The NPO world isn't the most obvious place to go for that.

    Nov 24, 2010
  • I wonder why non-profits are majority female. Is it a lack of consideration in the for profit world to hire females? Or maybe it is just that females don't have as large a greed streak as men. I know I work for a nonprofit because I was told by the for profit company that they budget for two deaths a years and I couldn't stomach that. I think it would be interesting to find out why women work for nonprofits.

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I work in a predominantly female office and profession and I am a man. I'm not the only man as we have some 300 plus workers but supervisors tend to be female. In general I work better with men then women. I think that the negative stereotypes listed for women all too often tend to be true.
    The agency i work for is for people with developmental disabilities and I really wish more emphasis were placed on hiring qualified people with disabilities within our own organization.

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that there are at least cultural and likley biological norms for the ways men, women or men and women together operate. No doubt some ways of operating are more effective or enjoyable to different people - it would be interesting to know which "traits" best serve an organization or a society - whether in the for-profit or non-profit world. Our current work culture has so far been fashioned by men far more than women - including that which perhaps puts an emphasis on making money (male role in bringing home the bacon to provide for family - a necessity for generations) rather than the traditional "caring for others/charity" role of females.

    It's interesting to me that as women become more of a part of the economic (power) world (still pretty new in our history), it's an opportunity to look at how male and female ways of working can best serve or hamper any organization and perhaps also re-evaluate what are the values we want to emphasize in out society.I think the female domination of non-profits is perhaps the prow of that ship where the traditional roles/values of women become powerful economic entities and exhibit a more female-centric way of doing business. Perhaps the value of this still falls short of the traditional male-centric "for-profit" values system in terms of social accpetance (i.e lower social status) but I think it's is a great opportunity to try to understand how male and female strengths and values could fashion different economic and social structures for the benefit of men and women. Obviously I'm using sweeping gender sterotypes here - but I think there is no smoke without fire in the sterotypes at least for the broad purposes of characterizing a society.

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I find your article (and its findings) interesting. Reality is that I'm a man and with that come a lot of unearned privileges. Whining that, as a man, I am minority because 70-75% of my work envrionment is female would be like pretty people complaining about how hard they have it because they're pretty. The other reality for me is that I've worked in the nonprofit sector for over 23 years (am a 55 y/o latino man). I was and promoted hired by women. I learned most of what I know from women. My co-workers have mostly been women. And I have mostly supervised women, The experience has been a blessing and I have seldom felt like an like my gender has been an issue. On a side note: If I can't deal with breast-feeding (and pumping) and the conversations about menstrual periods, than my problem is greater than the fact that I work in the the nonprofit sector and/or a woman-dominated environment. Just sayin'.

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Wow! thanks so much for this comment. i was thinking something very similar but couldn't put it into words! I am a forty something, gender non-conforming female and have spent a good deal of my professional career in the nonprofit sector after working in the very traditionaly male dominated auto industry.

    Adjustments have to be made either direction...but the attitude in which we approach our work our co-workers and our workplace is what is really important. Disdain for "women's" conversation is still misogyny even if you are the "minority". And by the way women are still discriminated against in the world...according to cluw.org-"Census data shows that the gap between men’s and women’s earning widened between 2007 and 2008 (annual wage data is not yet available for 2009) from 77.8 percent to 77.1 percent. Women who work full-time still earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar men earn for performing the same work." It's true even among our sector, regardless of our being in the majority. Don't mistake majority for power...women have long been in the majority in this country. That doesn't equal power any more than it did for blacks in South Africa under apartheid.

    Sep 15, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Women should not be breast-feeding or pumping breast milk at a meeting. As a female, I abhor what is accepted as "women's talk" -- Nobody should be discussing personal things at work. In passing - maybe -- but better off the worksite.

    I am ashamed of women for not carrying the torch lit decades ago that just might have changed the cultural perception of women working for "pin money." We are our own worst enemy - I no longer have any questions about that fact. And I despair.

    Sep 28, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I am a man working in an almost exclusive female organization -- from line staff to all levels of management. I transitioned from the executive ranks of a for profit company where my mentors were female and I would not have reached the level of personal and professional accomplishment without their help and guidance.

    For my organization, although being female is definitely an advantage in terms of being "heard," it is largely an issue of corporate culture. An organization that "qualifies" staff input based on gender (or any other factor other than merit) will have an issue in terms of achieving long term impact. Good people, male or female, will transition out because they've hit a wall and they cannot stand by and not continue to advance both personally and professionally.

    I don't think think that we can ever get rid of stereotypes or achieve gender-neutrality. However, true leadership and a corporate culture that is built around merit and organizational values (that we all love to point out) is about as close as an organization can come to minimize the negative and achieve true alignment.

    Thank you Jan and Lynora for this thought-provoking article.

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Here's another stereotype that I've found largely (but not entirely) true in my career in non-profits, surrounded by women:

    Women tend to be more conscientious about deadlines, about meeting their duties, about getting things done, and paying attention to the details. Men tend to be more "big-picture" which can be maddening when you actually want them to deliver on a project. A lot of this is based on working with volunteers who were in their 40s-70s, so perhaps that's skewing my perception, but even among younger workers, I notice much less slacking off and entitlement from my female coworkers than from my male coworkers.

    Has anyone else had any similar experiences?

    I also find my female workers to be much better at forming social bonds with their coworkers, but that could just be that I'm totally anti-social.

    I've had female bosses and I've had male bosses, and there's a variety of styles. That shrewishness that people notice in female leaders is accepted in men - if a woman does it, she's a b*tch, but if a man does it, it is much more acceptable.

    I've also noticed that even in a female-dominated sector, the opinions of men still tend to be more highly valued. i've definitely seen cases where men had an oversized influence because of their gender - seen as experts, etc.

    I'm wary of stereotypes, and i'm equally wary of any majority crying discrimination the minute they are in a situation where they are a minority (i'm talking to you, my fellow white males!) Gender discrimination in the office shouldn't be tolerated, and there are legal mechanisms to deal with it.

    Finally, i used to be the only male in an office, and i always had to get stuff from high places or carry heavy stuff. I'm 5 7 and weigh 140 pounds - hardly a he-man. equality is all well and good until a heavy package comes!

    Sep 15, 2010
  • One of the folks we interviewed for this article made a similar comment (it was cut from the final draft for space): "I feel like I can relate the facts and figures better than some women can. But I have a little more difficult time pulling heartstrings, especially with women givers. I'm trying to get better at starting with the need. Because if you've never received a discontinuation notice from the utility company, you really don't know what that feels like."

    I like your point about being wary of stereotypes, but . . .

    Thanks for your comment. And on behalf of lazy (not weak) women everywhere . . . thanks for picking up the heavy packages! Jan

    Sep 15, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I would be interested to see a breakdown of the data for each gender by "executive director" vs. "non-executive positions" and by income for the same level of work. My perception is that there is a higher percentage of men in the executive vs. non-executive positions and that, even in the nonprofit sector, they are paid more than women in the same positions. I would love to be proved wrong!

    Sep 15, 2010
  • Anonymous

    You're right, but it's at ALL levels. GuideStar did a thorough study of nonprofit salaries, including small, medium and large organizations, different areas of specialty and geography. The numbers were hard for me - a woman - to read. You can read the overall results here: http://tinyurl.com/2f8ld3w.

    Sep 21, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I am certain that, not only are you correct, but add that men in lesser staff positions are paid more. After all, the culture, and women support this, continues to operate as if this is the Donna Reed Show.

    Sep 28, 2010
  • Interesting; I started as a development officer right out of college in 1966. In my second development job, probably in 1972 or so, I recall being the ONLY female speaker at a national CASE conference. When I moved to Washington State in 1979--and for many years thereafter--I was the ONLY female planned giving officer in the state and one of a relatively small number of female development professionals. Always, of course, the vast majority of support staff members were female. Over the years, I've watched the figures change significantly. Now professional women are in the majority at most development gatherings (and their support staff members are still mostly female). Yet often, males still have higher, more visible, and higher-paid positions and are the featured speakers. I welcome the rise of women at all types of nonprofits and in all types of positions. Yet I prefer a mix of men and women, different racial groups, gays and straights, etc., etc. Working amid such diversity helps us grow personally in understanding people different from ourselves. It also helps us serve our constituents better and--might as well reach for a biggie--helps promote world peace. Jean McCord

    Sep 16, 2010
  • Anonymous

    As a long time volunteer, as well as a nonprofit board governance consultant for the past 25 years--growing up in LA, living in Chicago, London, New York City and now upstate Connecticut, I was fascinated with the comments! And, I can so relate to the observations and comments. And, since mopst of my volunteer work has been with the Association of Junior Leagues, International in 3 of those cities, I will say that the comments about women's strengths i\are right on. The one exception to the "mostly female invovlement" in for me has been the nonprofit sector in New York City and Connecticut---I'd say it's pretty even between men and women. Why is that do you suppose?

    Sep 16, 2010
  • A few thoughts from a woman. Most of my work has been with even mixes of men and women, or sometimes mostly men, because I've worked on foreign policy and arms control issues. I have certainly encountered problems such as women being the ones carrying the water (metaphorically) and men either getting credit or giving each other a lot of leeway with deadlines. On the other hand, some of my best mentors have been older, white men. They've been more likely to give me a push to try new things, take risks and stand up for myself, where women have been encouraging but often still caught up in self-doubt which ends up tempering their advice. A friend once mentioned that she got tired of our male-dominated staff being so lousy at listening and collaboration, but then she went on to a female-dominated office and went nuts hearing about feelings when decisiveness was required. For the men who get tired of being asked to lift things: I hate when women do that! I don't think you can ask for equal treatment if you don't haul some stuff around, so long as you're able. Re a man being uncomfortable with breastfeeding or talk of periods: this man was older, and women have only recently been public with these parts of their lives, so I don't see this as misogyny at all. He didn't say that he asked women to stop, which would be a problem, just that he felt uncomfortable. Social change is often uncomfortable, and it takes time. What matters is that people hang in there, and there's no evidence that this man hasn't done that. Tracy Moavero -- I have an account, but I can't find a place to log in, just to register.

    Sep 21, 2010
  • Tracy, thank you for your comment . . . I totally agree with you. And I'm sorry about the log-in place; it's right under the donate button to the right and about half way down the page. I know it's hidden; we're trying to figure out how to configure some things.

    Sep 21, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the reply, Jan. And I'm glad to know my trouble finding the login button wasn't just me needing to clean my glasses.

    Sep 21, 2010
  • Anonymous

    However, male executives, or top-administration, hire people to move and lift. (At least they did, not everyone else on staff must do these jobs).

    Women executives however, (and I have a specific bank in mind, as a prime example), are lugging, shoving, moving, lifting, loading their cars -- unloading their cars -- ALL with banik-related stuff. People who do labor are trained, and skilled at such things. AND, they're not doing it using the tools for the job - like using a hand-cart. No no no - they'll hand-carry heavy boxes for blocks. This is irrational on so many levels that I can't keep talking about it -- including the fact that this indicates that what the women 'executives' do when they're not working as labor, is meaningless.

    Sep 28, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I wasn't going to make another comment, but, ironically, today, a friend of mine who is senior staff at a local organization, and all seven staff, only 1 male, was required to move furniture - yet again, including extremely heavy desks. No warning about this. Came dressed up for work.
    The female E.D. decided that the furniture had to be moved - she simply didn't like it where it was.

    Now, I asked my friend why they didn't refuse. "Well, what could we do?" she replied. I suggested that they could have refused. By no stretch of anyone's job description were they hired as movers, nor would this fall into that all-encompassing job description provision - and anything else pertinent to the job.

    This is why, right? they all worked so hard to get degrees from the best universities. The other fixation by the E.D. was work-related materials on desks. She was embarrassed, she said, when she'd brought Board members areound and the desks were covered those nasty contracts and files, don't you know.

    Would they all have been fired for refusing? What do you think.

    Sep 29, 2010
  • When I started working as the Executive Director for Rainbow Services, a nonprofit providing support services to victims of domestic violence in Los Angeles, I was frequently asked, "why would a man want to work on a woman's issue?" I could not believe what I was hearing but then realized that the vast majority of people working on this issue are women. Just so you know, I would quickly inform anyone who asked me that question that domestic violence is not a woman's issue, it is a societal problem. I have now been the Executive Director for 7 years, I rarely get asked that question any more.

    Nov 04, 2010
  • I am the Moffat County director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition a Colorado based non profit. I also serve as a volunteer firefighter in my community so I have both extremes a very female dominated and the other male often what applies in one setting would fail miserably in the other. This is most apparent in problem solving and conflicts.

    Nov 04, 2010
  • I am a male who spent a year working for a domestic violence agency until government funding cuts forced my layoff. I'm currently working on the staff of a non-profit fellowship program. A male in the world of DV sticks out. Generally at events, trainings, and meetings, the only other males there were police officers and members of the DA's office. Though you have to be comfortable being in a room with 40 women talking about the terrible things some men do, it feels good to be part of the solution.

    Nov 04, 2010
  • I am one of very few men in a non-profit agency in Tucson. I am the only male in a management position and, until recently, the only one even in any position above direct service provider or admin. Sex and gender identification in work relationships are not a factor for me and I typically even forget (or just don't consider) that I'm the only male in sometimes a room of 25 people. As gender-neutral as I believe I am and work relationships should be, I was raised in a very gender defined world - a traditional Mexican Catholic household with the stereotypical male-female gender roles. As such, I occasionally crave the rapport and camaraderie that stems from my (and many other men) socialization, which can only come from friendship (within work or outside of) with other men. Without other men in management positions within my agency, it is difficult to brainstorm, commiserate, and shoot the breeze as I was socialized to do, and quite enjoy.

    Nov 04, 2010
  • Victor, thank you writing such an authentic, senstitive post. Jan

    Nov 19, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I wonder at the men who find it embarrassing when women breast feed or talk about their periods or some other feminine topic. At 60 and as the only man in my NPO, I am subject to this quite often. In fact, my supervisor is at the present breastfeeding her newborn. It's a fact of life, people and we're supposed to be adults. Chances are every man who gets embarrassed by a breastfeeding woman was, himself, breastfed. Every man who loves his children should be thanked women have periods.

    It goes to show me that, even in a sector that is supposed to be "enlightened" we still have those same Puritan/Victorian notions about sex and the body and male/female roles and it simply is ridiculous. It holds us back form making true progress in the area of gender equality and it really needs to end. Grow up, guys, we were all out of Junior High School years ago and need to leave that silliness behind.

    Nov 16, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Well, how long have women suffered (dominant) male colleagues or boss's conversations on sports, cars, breasts not breastfeeding, harmful practical jokes or oneupmanship? Guess a little feminine issues talk won't kill us, though there are limits. Even more so across cultures.
    What have I found that (white) women talk more about than most men? Food. As in really good food, being well treated or well-fed in restaurants. Chalk it up to nurture/nutrition, (taste) thrill seeking, a form of domestic comforting, or another form or oral gratification or fulfillment maybe?
    Talking about periods or esp. PMS or cramps raises a touchy question: can women be acceptably more grouchy or emotional or under-performing when ruled by such chemistry? Fair? Real? Make exceptions for? A social minefield maybe better talked about in smaller groups or 1 on 1. Or not at all?

    Nov 17, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I started out in admin/development/membership positions (10 years) then became a donor-database trainer and consultant (10 more years) and am now back in development. As a trainer/consultant I worked with literally hundreds of non-profits all across the country. Most of my clients were women; I observed the glass-ceiling in spades! In many of these orgs, the only male was the ED or the DD, and in most of those cases, they were "above" the fray and were almost invisible. Male EDs and DDs kept out of the actual office, seemingly preferring to lunch with cronies rather than sit in on a training. The database was for "the girls". Another observation is that male admin folks seem to be first in line for promotion to senior positions; the assumption seemed to be "he's a man, he's only here temporarily until he can move up ... ". It happened to me in several of my admin positions: DD jobs were offered (I don't *want* to be a DD or ED!). Great discussion! I've often wondered why we ended up this way. Currently I work for a small-town library that has an intensely female-driven culture (for the first 20 years we had female-only board members, about 55 at any given time). That appears to be changing. At our last staff meeting (22 people) one woman spoke up and said "history is being made .. there are 4 men at this meeting!"

    Nov 19, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Studies from Guidestar (as noted) and AFP annually indicate males out-earn females in the third sector and continue to hold the majority of the highest paying jobs. There are few top spots and much under-paid work on the way up.

    I have often observed the lack of serious background checking as to why they left their last position given to male applicants for top positions v to female candidates, and a seeming belief that men from any corporate or military officer background have "natural" leadership abilities.

    Recently we read that a study indicates that a good-looking male out earns even a good-looking female by more than 12 percent over the life of his career.

    I always predicted that we would have a black male president before a white female one. While I am an absolute supporter of our current President, I still believe that sexism played a big role in the 2008 election and that it will continue to do so in every aspect of our culture, until both women and men call it out, they way we have begun to do with racism and homophobia .

    Jan 04, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I have worked for 2 men and 3 women in my career. Give me a male boss any day of the week! I am female, 50's, and have worked in the non-profit sector all my professional life. Unfortunately, I have encountered some true back-stabbing, life draining women. I have never experienced this with the men I have worked with.

    2 of the female Executive Directors I have worked for have surrounded themselves with 'yes women' who create an atmosphere of torment and bullying for anyone outside their clique. No one outside the agency ever sees it, but they were horrific to work for. It felt like high school all over again.

    I was at a conference for women in the fall, you would not believe the number of women who stood up and said they had experience bullying from other women in the workplace. We need to support and help each other like the 'old boys club', giving one another a hand up, not a slap down. I wonder if women can't stand the competition, and the female way of dealing with it is to torment our competitors until they are gone.

    Jan 05, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I find the narrow view of gender in this conversation troubling.

    There are more then 2 genders and not everyone identifies strictly as "male" or "female" and even within those categories there is a range of how these genders are informed--which this article fails to acknowledge at all.

    A lot of this conversation sadly does not actually address the constructs, how we make decisions, organizational philosophy, etc. that underly the organizational cultures that emerge and are promoted.

    Taking a haphazard reader survey hardly seems the way to approach a topic like this. I would benefit much more from an article that addresses how we can proactively address gender disparities based on case studies of organizations that are modeling and have success with promoting equity in the workplace. And includes some people that have varied gender identities as part of the dialogue.

    Feb 25, 2011
  • Being a new reader, I am very late to this discussion. After studying the Nonprofit Almanac, I wonder: if nursing was taken out of the equation, would the gender imbalance substantially shift towards equity? My modest experience in non-health care NPOs suggests not, but my sample is too small to be relevant.

    May 18, 2011
  • I ask about nursing because of the sheer size of this group. In 2004, of the 2.9 million RNs in the US, and less than 6% were male. (I can't find hard data on LPNs and CNAs, but suspect similar ratios.) Why bring this up? Because I'd like more clarity about gender in the nonprofit world as a whole -- but the huge gender imbalance in a handful of highly populated job titles are distorting the view. (Nor is nursing the only female bastion. Consider K-8 education.)

    May 18, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I am a middle management level man. Most of my career, my boss has been male too. But since last year, I have been reporting to a woman. She has been high flying in the organisation no doubt - similar age but with less tenure than me but rising very rapidly. And my life has been hell ! I have never been more belittled, bullied and tormented in my life ! I am now working more like a junior entry level staff than a manager, forget about being a middle management level ! She is a control freak, and I have to report to her on every little thing. Even my arrival time and departure time is controlled, and I have to be absolutely on time else face her wrath. All information is strictly held by her, and I am just given tasks to do, with no views given on bigger picture, or what happens after I submit my work to her. Just feel like a "cog in the wheel" under her. Most of the time, I have to redo the work 2-3 times as it doesn't meet her exacting standards. Her instructions seem to me to be deliberately vague, and request for clarifications are met with a stern look so most of the time I do not dare to ask for clarifications and rather go through the 2-3 rounds of rework. But that extends my work hours a lot, and do get a lot of scolding in the process. Most frustrating, she asks me loudly why I didn't ask for clarification when I wasn't sure, yet asking her for clarifications is a very frightening proposition. And the tasks are getting lower and lower level, including secretarial tasks like drafting a letter for her, setting up appointments for her and even the occassional buying coffee for her ! At the same time, all communications have to go through her which has resulted in my now having no connections with senior management or even other peers. All hell would break loose if this "no direct communication" rule is broken, so I dare not even contemplate it. She has moved me into a small cubicle outside her large cubicle and am always under her watchful eyes. Any level of absence more than 10 mins from my cubicle, and I am questioned. Any small talks with colleagues is also frowned upon. Most infuriating is when I am talking to her, and she proceeds to inspect her fingernails ! There's nothing much I can do, as she is clearly held in high esteem by senior management, and any form of complain will result in a difficult situation. Finding another job in this economy has also been impossible. I wonder if any of you, who have worked a lot more in female environments, have had such experiences, and what can be done to improve the situation ? Thanks

    Jun 15, 2014
  • This has nothing to do whether the boss is male or female. Time for a new job.

    Jun 16, 2014
  • Anonymous

    Susan, Maybe you are right but I am just narrating my experience. Working under so many male bosses for 8 years, I have had some great ones, and some bad ones. But nothing no where as terrible as the one female boss experience which I am having right now. Naturally, I will assume that its about female bosses. I read above somewhere too that female bosses bully their subordinates more than male bosses. Maybe its their insecurity or way of retaining their power or maybe it is just that domineering, aggressive and highly capable females who get these positions. I am frightened as I go into office everyday. Trying to look for a new job within 1 month of she becoming my boss, but no luck in this economy. I am even ready to take a paycut and lower title (since currently I am a "senior manager" only in name but working like, and being treated like, a junior entry level staff) to escape this hell. I have behaved like a good, obedient subordinate to her in the hope of a better treatment, but to no avail. I have no idea of what is going on in her mind and she communicates back very little, just gives orders in stern manner. Tried to talk to her whether she was happy with my performance, and how can I support her better, but all she said was I need to perform better in all aspects. When I asked for elaboration, she was highly irritated and looked at me in a manner that I dare not pursue it anymore. Hope someone (probably a woman) can enlighten me on the psyche of these powerful, highly capable and demanding women, and how to manage them as a boss.

    Jun 16, 2014
  • As a woman, I can tell you you can't change this person. Keep searching.

    Jun 18, 2014
  • The real problem is that there are just too many Career women nowadays which many of them are Bosses.

    May 14, 2016

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