Women’s economic justice means investment in women-majority sectors

To fight for women’s economic justice, investing in sectors where women are underrepresented is not enough. We need investments in sectors that are historically and traditionally overrepresented with women, like the nonprofit sector. When a sector is women-majority, it is often undervalued, underfunded, and underestimated which undermines decent work and stalls women’s economic justice overall. To make women’s economic justice a reality, we need decent work in women-majority sectors.

Women make up 80 per cent of workers across Ontario and Canada’s nonprofit sector. That’s approximately 1.6 million women workers across communities. Although there is lack of data on the demographics of women workers in nonprofits, anecdotally we know many of them are racialized and immigrant women. Indigenous women, women from the LGBTQ2SI community, and women with disabilities are concentrated in particular subsectors such as in Indigenous-led or women’s organizations.

The nonprofit sector is
women-majority

Decent work creates a resilient workforce that can better help nonprofits meet their missions to build thriving communities. But we need to look at decent work differently, with an intersectional lens. This lens helps illuminate how decent work elements play out unevenly for women, especially racialized, immigrant, and Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and women from the LGBTQ2SI community. Without using this lens, we’ll miss out on what 80% of nonprofit workers might need.

We can’t build a decent work
movement without women

Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work

Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work


The sector is women-majority but not women-led

Despite making up the vast majority of the workforce, women are disproportionately concentrated in non-leadership positions given their employment share. They are more likely to lead smaller-sized and lower-budget organizations. For immigrant and racialized women and women with disabilities, unequal job opportunities and a glass ceiling particularly exist. As a result, we have a gendered and racialized hierarchy in the sector’s labour force.


Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work


Women are paid less than men

Women are facing a triple threat when it comes to compensation: the care penalty, a gender discount, and limited benefits. Wages in the sector are lower in comparison to other sectors, despite the fact that the workforce is highly educated and experienced. On top of that, women earn less than men, especially in senior leadership positions. Lack of access to a pension plan, health benefits and maternity and parental leave benefits drive down women’s overall compensation packages. Together these add up to dramatically lower compensation for women working in the sector over the course of their lives.


Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work


Women experience sexism at all levels

Despite making up the vast majority of the workforce, women are disproportionately concentrated in non-leadership positions given their employment share. They are more likely to lead smaller-sized and lower-budget organizations. For immigrant and racialized women and women with disabilities, unequal job opportunities and a glass ceiling particularly exist. As a result, we have a gendered and racialized hierarchy in the sector’s labour force.


Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work


Women overwhelmingly experience bullying and some sexual harassment exists

Women are bullied by women peers and those in power. They experience sexual harassment in their jobs from people outside of the nonprofit sector.


Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work


Racism and ageism are other common forms of discrimination

Identities are complex and so discrimination is experienced in multiple ways. Women may experience discrimination based on either only their gender, another part of their identity that is not gende such as race, or their gender in combination with another part of their identity such as age, or ability.


Women in the nonprofit sector
are not experiencing decent work


Gender plays a significant role in the nonprofit sector

The sector is often perceived through negative gender stereotypes such as dependent, emotional, unintelligent, and unskilled. This is because so many women work in the sector and much of its work is considered women’s work, care work, and work that immigrant and racialized women should do. This has real consequences for the sector, its women workers and the communities it serves. It creates patriarchal power dynamics between organizations and donors or funders. Decent work for women working in the sector is undermined. And gaps in addressing community needs emerge.


Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work

Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work


The sector is women-majority but not women-led

Despite making up the vast majority of the workforce, women are disproportionately concentrated in non-leadership positions given their employment share. They are more likely to lead smaller-sized and lower-budget organizations. For immigrant and racialized women and women with disabilities, unequal job opportunities and a glass ceiling particularly exist. As a result, we have a gendered and racialized hierarchy in the sector’s labour force.


Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work


Women are paid less than men

Women are facing a triple threat when it comes to compensation: the care penalty, a gender discount, and limited benefits. Wages in the sector are lower in comparison to other sectors, despite the fact that the workforce is highly educated and experienced. On top of that, women earn less than men, especially in senior leadership positions. Lack of access to a pension plan, health benefits and maternity and parental leave benefits drive down women’s overall compensation packages. Together these add up to dramatically lower compensation for women working in the sector over the course of their lives.


Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work


Women experience sexism at all levels

Despite making up the vast majority of the workforce, women are disproportionately concentrated in non-leadership positions given their employment share. They are more likely to lead smaller-sized and lower-budget organizations. For immigrant and racialized women and women with disabilities, unequal job opportunities and a glass ceiling particularly exist. As a result, we have a gendered and racialized hierarchy in the sector’s labour force.


Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work


Women overwhelmingly experience bullying and some sexual harassment exists

Women are bullied by women peers and those in power. They experience sexual harassment in their jobs from people outside of the nonprofit sector.


Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work


Racism and ageism are other common forms of discrimination

Identities are complex and so discrimination is experienced in multiple ways. Women may experience discrimination based on either only their gender, another part of their identity that is not gende such as race, or their gender in combination with another part of their identity such as age, or ability.


Women in the nonprofit sector are not experiencing decent work


Gender plays a significant role in the non profit sector

The sector is often perceived through negative gender stereotypes such as dependent, emotional, unintelligent, and unskilled. This is because so many women work in the sector and much of its work is considered women’s work, care work, and work that immigrant and racialized women should do. This has real consequences for the sector, its women workers and the communities it serves. It creates patriarchal power dynamics between organizations and donors or funders. Decent work for women working in the sector is undermined. And gaps in addressing community needs emerge.


Women’s Voices

The whole issue of unfairness in nonprofits is systemic and reflects the continuing devaluing of women’s work.

A lot of women of colour are streamed into nonprofit, partly because we see the issues in our lives and communities and want to create change, but its a cycle that continues to oppress us and marginalize us. Within the sector, we need to have support in advocating for ourselves, for negotiating rights and salaries. We need support to stop internalizing racism and sexism and navigating managers and peers that perpetuate this.

Literature Review

Women’s Voices report

Here’s what needs to be done

The future of our sector depends on decent work for women. It’s time for us to raise the floor, shatter the glass ceiling and disrupt the gender and racial hierarchies in nonprofits.

Eliminate gendered roles in organizations and open employment opportunities to all.

Create safe reporting mechanisms for discrimination and harassment

Ensure equal pay, equal pay for work of equal value, and pay transparency

Invest in professional development and advancement opportunities

Be accountable to gender parity and diversity in sector leadership

Offer a pension plan and top-ups for maternity and parental leave benefits

Provide stable employment opportunities.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Building gender equality in the pandemic recovery

Decent Work Charter

Bridging the gap

Recovery through Equality

Pension Plan

Decent Work Checklist

11 solutions

Maternity and Parental Employment Insurance Benefits: A Policy Brief

Supporting a universal child care program

Applying a nonprofit sector lens to Ontario’s Pay Equity Legislation: A Backgrounder

Together, we can make decent work
for women a reality

ONN can’t do this alone, we need your help. As more people amplify our decent work for women messages by sharing this microsite, the faster our movement will grow. As more people join our movement by subscribing to our newsletter the bigger our movement will grow. Our collective efforts will accelerate decent work for women in the sector and women’s economic justice overall. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.