Decent Work for Women

Decent Work for Women

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #decentwork4women #NFPworkingwomen and #DecentWork & share your stories with us via email.

Decent work for women working in our sector

The Ontario nonprofit sector is a critical part of the province’s social, economic and political fabric. Fifty-five thousand organizations generate over $50 billion in economic impact for the province, while a labour force of over 1 million people serves a wide range of communities across the province.

We know that the sector differs from others as it has its own set of unique trends and challenges – such as resource constraints, a tightened regulatory environment, changing demographics, and a shift from ‘do-gooders’ to professionalization – that significantly impact employment in the sector. ONN’s ChangeWork report sheds light on the reality of job precarity and insecurity, lack of access to benefits and pensions, underinvestment in training and development and uncompetitive wages in the sector. Over the past year ONN has been building a decent work movement in the sector to address these issues.

We also know anecdotally that approximately 80% of the sector’s labour force is made up of women. However, little research exists on the specific experiences of women working in the sector, particularly Indigenous, marginalized and racialized women. In other words, how do ‘glass ceilings’, ‘leaky pipelines’ (women disappearing from the career ladder at some point), the gender wage gap and precarious work coupled with the sector’s unique challenges manifest and impact different women in the nonprofit labour force?

Given these critical intersections, it is time to develop a deeper understanding of the role(s) women play in Ontario’s nonprofit sector.

  • In the Ontario nonprofit sector, 53% of all workers are full-time permanent, 28% are part-time permanent, 13% are employed part-time and on contract, while 6% are full-time and on contract.
  • Women in the general labour force earn $0.87 for every dollar earned by men, as measured by hourly wages comparison, which is largely a result of wage inequality between women and men within occupations.
  • Even within women-dominated industries, women tend to have lower-paid positions than men.
  • Across sectors, despite having comparable education levels to Canadian-born women, immigrant women have lower rates of labour force participation and higher unemployment rates.


The Project

ONN has received funding from Status of Women Canada for a three-year project that will apply a GBA+ lens (gender based intersectional analysis) to:

  1. Identify barriers to women workers’ economic empowerment and prosperity in the nonprofit sector
  2. Develop and implement pilot solutions to address these barriers at the organizational, network and policy levels

The data and information collected, lessons learned and project successes will be documented and shared with the Ontario nonprofit sector throughout the project. The project will be informed by an advisory council of diverse members, three leaders in the sector from Status of Women Canada’s pan-Canadian Network of women leaders, project partners and relevant local, provincial and national stakeholders.  

Some initial key questions we plan to address:

  • How can intentionally harnessing different perspectives of women working in the nonprofit sector help us identify challenges and solutions related to their economic empowerment?
  • How can we create solutions that address the experiences of diverse women working in the nonprofit sector?
  • Do barriers differ based on different regions and subsectors in the province?
  • What is the relationship between decent work for women working in the nonprofit sector and the sector’s funding models?
  • What shifts in understandings need to happen to move the needle on women’s economic empowerment in the sector? (e.g the charity model, unpaid work, care work, women’s work)

Key activities include a literature review, focus groups and a survey, prioritizing barriers and themes and piloting and implementing collaborative strategies for change.

Who are the stakeholders?

This project has multiple stakeholders within and beyond the nonprofit sector across Ontario, involved in multiple capacities. Below, the visual demonstrates those that are at the centre of our project – diverse women working in the sector – overlapping with our advisory council, community of practice, and project partners. We’ve identified other groups of stakeholders we are involving and hope to involve and have left room for those that might come to the forefront as the project unfolds and progresses.

Who else is working on this issue?

Our project is situated in larger conversations on gender equity in public policy at both the federal and provincial levels, which we hope to leverage to strengthen the Ontario nonprofit sector. In recent years, the Ontario government launched a multi-ministry strategy on sexual violence and harassment, including an amendment to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and convened a Gender Wage Gap working group. In July 2017 the Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women launched consultations to inform their upcoming Women’s Economic Empowerment strategy. Federally, Budget 2017: Building a Strong Middle Class, Chapter 5 – Equal Opportunity: Budget 2017 included a GBA+ lens and explicit Gender Statement.

What is Decent Work?

The concept of decent work was developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and is defined as “opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity” (International Labour Organization, “Decent Work,” 2015).

The nonprofit sector can be a major catalyst for a conversation about decent work and what it could mean for Canada, Ontario, our communities and the nonprofit sector itself.

Upcoming activities

August 2017: Data to be collected as part of ONN’s Fair Workplaces (Bill 148) Survey

August 2017: Submission to Ontario Ministry of Status of Women for the development of a Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy

September 2017: Presentation at FUTURES2017 conference for First Work Ontario’s Youth Employment Network

November 2017: Workshop at ONN’s Nonprofit Driven 2017 annual conference

January 2018: Presentation at Cannexus18 Conference for Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC)

February 2018: Launch of Literature Review

How can you get involved?

Join the conversation and spread the word!

Follow us and our hashtags on social media: #decentwork4women #NFPworkingwomen #ONnonprofit #womenswork

Share your insights!

Connect with us for more information or to share information, resources and take part in our upcoming focus groups and survey:

Pamela Uppal, Project Lead, 416-642-5786 x 504


This project is funded by: