Last Friday, the world took to the streets to celebrate International Women’s Day, a day marked by celebration, encouragement and necessary conversations about gender differences in the workplace. But it doesn’t end here. The theme of International Women’s Day is to #EmbraceEquity and it lasts for all of 2023. 

As we saw last week, there is still a significant difference in the gender balance of nonprofit leadership. Included, were actionable hiring practices and ways to close this gender gap, but not everyone has power over this. So what else can we do?

Every day we make conscious and unconscious decisions that shape our workplace culture. Shifting this culture is a team effort. From the leadership to the entry-level role, from the women to the men to the gender non-binary, everyone contributes. Here are 10 ways you can shift the culture of your nonprofit towards greater gender equality.  

1. Learn about your implicit bias 

Nothing will compare to the shock I felt when I realized I had a bias against women. I had taken this test from Harvard to discover if I had an implicit bias. And I did. A slight bias against females in science. As a feminist with a bachelors of science, I’m all for women empowerment and am dying to see more women in leadership roles. I myself want to take on those leadership roles. So how do I have an unconscious bias against so many marginalized groups, including my own? Neuroscience.

The brain creates automatic categories to sort the thousands of pieces of information it receives in a given moment. While most of the time this makes you a smarter and a more successful individual, it can lead to unintentional, unfortunate consequences, especially when left unnoticed. So in order to begin truly creating a culture of inclusion, we need to learn about our own biases. An amazing video I urge you to watch is this TEDx Talk given by Valerie Alexander. In it, she is quick to uncover your implicit bias. Yet through the talk, she shifts your thoughts, simultaneously shifting your biases and creating a more inclusive mindset. The takeaway: we all have an implicit bias, but it doesn’t mean you always will.

2. Your bias isn’t your boss

After years of processing visual information from pop culture to the news, your brain has created expectations, and when our surroundings don’t match up with our expectations, our bias literally courses through our body. This ancient reaction is rooted in one of the oldest areas of your brain, the amygdala, an area designated to keeping you alive. While we can’t fight this reaction, we can shift our conscious mindset, thereby creating a more inclusive bias, and more inclusive environment. Here are three things Valerie Alexander recommends to transform your internal bias. 


grey_quote-11. VISUALIZE situations and encounters before they happen. Then change your mental picture. Visualize the unexpected.

2. EXAMINE your own behavior when we encounter the unexpected. Ask, is this how I would behave if the person looked like me, or didn’t look like me? 

3. EXPOSE yourself and others to what is currently unexpected, but doesn’t need to be. Hire the candidates, who have earned the position, and also challenge the norms. grey_quote

Before beginning the next steps, honestly recognize the importance of diversity, the different backgrounds and ideas each person carries with them. Learn from those with different experiences from yourself, and understand the significance of why these next steps are important. 

3. Initiate Open Dialogue

Go straight to the source! You never really know what your employees and partners are thinking if you don’t ask them. There are many ways to encourage dialogue throughout the organization, and it starts with the leadership. Check out GuideStar’s guide to instigating this dialogue. Whether talking about your nonprofit’s work environment or brainstorming for a new marketing campaign, reach out and hear from all corners of your workforce. You never know what ideas might be hiding.

4. Broadcast Your Commitment to Diversity

Now that you’ve taken some serious steps to understand the importance of open hiring and shifting this culture, define your nonprofit’s commitment to diversity. Include it on your website’s About Us page. You can find ours here. E-mail it out to all of your employees, hang it on the wall, put it everywhere. On your careers page, make sure to write your Equal Opportunity Employment statement. Make it visible, then practice it. Stay true to your word. 

5. Audit your Online Representation

Who is speaking on behalf of your nonprofit to the general public?  Take note of all of the faces who represent your nonprofit on a large scale. Do you notice any trends? A good place to start: images used on your website, people featured in online campaign videos, images on social media sites, and public spokespeople. How are they telling your nonprofit’s story? 

6. Create Socially Conscious Campaigns

Nonprofits create some incredible campaigns surrounding International Women’s Day. Care’s #HerInHero campaign garnered immense popularity in 2019. Last year, Girls on the Run created a video for their #LetsTellHer campaign that still gives me chills. When else can your nonprofit create these campaigns? Always! Foster that spirit of inclusion and progress, partner with socially aware brands, and put some inspiring and shocking content out there.

7. Don’t allow for “tokenism”.

Tokenism is the perfunctory representation of equality and diversity within a workforce in an effort to give the appearance of equality. Selecting your women or POC employees to be the face of the organization simply because of their relation to the minority group provides no true progress. To have proper representation of diversity, you first must embrace and practice it thoroughly. 

8. Lift each other up

Create a mentorship program. If you’re in a leadership position, you can implement a comprehensive program or simply reach out to younger hires with potential. If you’re a new hire, reach out to someone you admire and ask for guidance. 

9. Amplify each other’s voices

Are you in a small group of women finding yourselves in a male dominated boardroom or workplace? You’re (no surprise) not the first. So take a page from the playbook of the women of the Obama Administration. They created the Amplification Strategy, a method of making sure their ideas were heard, recognized, and appreciated. In meetings, repeat each other’s ideas, give credit to those who earned it, and make it known how much you all have to contribute. The best part, anyone can practice this. Make your voices heard. 

10. Never Stop Learning

New ideas, new conversations, and new research are always being discovered. Stay active in the conversation by attending conferences like the Women in Nonprofit Leadership Conference. Utilize online resources, like this workshop available from DonorPerfect. There is an immense amount of knowledge and resources at your fingertips, so go out there and find it.


This concludes part two of our four part series: The State of Women in Nonprofits. Look out for new featured content every Friday of March. Next Friday, we’ll focus on the difference in donor patterns between women and men, and how your nonprofit can maximize your donations. 

guy illustration ux

Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Nonprofits


Other articles picked for you