Can’t Get Promoted in Nonprofits? Maybe It’s Because You’re an LGBTQ Person of Color

A new report with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other partners helps to identify the multiple barriers faced by LGBTQ people of color in the nonprofit sector.

You work in a nonprofit that supports strengthening diversity and being conscious of race and gender bias, and yet you feel discriminated against year after year, as you are bypassed for promotions and other career advancement opportunities.  It’s a familiar story for many LGBTQ people of color, and now a new report has come out that fills a big research gap — the lack of data on leadership of LGBTQ people of color in the nonprofit industry.

“It was tough being one of a couple staff people of color in an LGBTQ organization. I would see things others didn’t and I would name it. That was sometimes really difficult for my superiors to hear,” said a multiracial transgender respondent quoted in the study.

The report, Working at the Intersections: LGBTQ Staff and the Nonprofit Leadership Gap, was recently released by the Building Movement Project (BMP), which is fiscally sponsored by Third Sector New England, which recently changed its name to TSNE MissionWorks. BMP started as a collective of 20 people working in small nonprofits who came together in 1999 in order to maximize impact with up-to-date analysis on issues related to social justice and nonprofit operating practices. BMP was originally housed at the Hauser Center for Nonprofits at Harvard, and moved to Demos in 2003.

The report makes specific recommendations for nonprofits and foundations to address LGBTQ bias in the workplace.

This LGBTQ-focused report builds on the recent release of Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, which BMP released last month along with unveiling a new website, Racetolead.org, which serves as a new online hub for knowledge and action on the racial leadership gap in nonprofits.

One of the key findings of the study is that most LGBTQ people of color see racial discrimination as the primary barrier to advancement toward leadership positions. Twice as many survey respondents identified race as negatively impacting on their careers compared to sexual orientation, according to the study’s findings.

This finding informs the report’s recommendations that nonprofit agencies take a primary focus on race, in order to lay the groundwork for the organization to begin addressing issues of anti-LGBTQ bias. The report also recommends that funders and nonprofits adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexuality and gender identity, and establish systems for monitoring and addressing discrimination.

More on the report here. 

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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