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Toward More Inclusive Diversity in the Philanthropic Sector: LGBTQ People and People With Disabilities

July 28, 2017

DiversityThe philanthropic sector has taken steps to address the lack of inclusion of women and people of color in its talent pool. But newly released research from the Council on Foundations reveals that several demographics often are missing from philanthropic talent conversations and decisions.

The reason for this may well be a lack of data. For almost thirty years, the council has collected data on grantmaker staff composition and compensation in the United States. Our annual Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey represents a set of data points from more than a thousand grantmakers, including data on nearly ten thousand full-time paid professional and administrative staff members.

Using this rich dataset, we analyzed the demographics of the philanthropic sector looking back five and ten years, with a focus on the representation of women and people of color. Our recently released report, State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector, highlights findings based on that analysis.

Even our large dataset, however, lacked sufficient data for us to be able to conduct any meaningful analysis with regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical/intellectual disability.

That raises a number of important questions. Are the LGBTQ population and people with disabilities simply underrepresented within the talent pool available to the sector? Are survey respondents reluctant to report on these particular demographics? There are no simple answers. Much has been said about the underrepresentation of women and people of color in top jobs at the nation's foundations, and several organizations have developed fellowship and pipeline programs designed to bolster the diversity of the next generation of philanthropic leaders. Role models such as the California Endowment's Robert K. Ross and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's La June Montgomery Tabron also serve as champions for the importance of diverse and inclusive institutions that embrace equitable grantmaking practices.

But who are the role models for the LGBTQ community? Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation is often recognized as the organization's first openly gay leader. For two consecutive years, Out Magazine has included Walker among its annual Power 50 list of the most influential LGBTQ people in American culture. Clearly, he is a role model for many, and his influence as the leader of the Ford Foundation, the second largest foundation in the country, is beyond dispute. Kevin Jennings, formerly of the Arcus Foundation (and now at the Tenement Museum in New York City), and Daniel Lee at the Levi Strauss Foundation are also openly gay leaders within the sector. Advocates for diversity, they both use their voices to champion causes of concern to the LGBTQ community and the manner in which philanthropy responds to the community's needs.

While we applaud these gentlemen for their efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community, they represent a small percentage of the sector's leadership. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, approximately ten million American adults, or approximately 4.1 percent of the U.S. population, identify as LGBTQ, up from the 3.5 percent who identified as LGBTQ in 2012.

But why is that increase not reflected in the sector's leadership? It could be as simple as an inability to attract LGBTQ individuals to the field. It could also be a matter of the field not being sufficiently welcoming and inclusive. Within the private sector, there are indicators designed to measure how inclusive organizations are with respect to the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, for example, examines corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ employees. Individuals looking to work in corporate America may factor in those ratings when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. In contrast, our sector hasn't developed a comparable tool for assessing foundations' level of inclusion and/or cultural competency. And while some may be content to argue that the world of philanthropy is a "good" place to work, not to mention one that attracts and serves people from a variety of backgrounds, the fact remains that the data on sexual orientation and gender identity within the sector is not representative of the nation's growing diversity.

Moreover, as it relates to people with disabilities, the narrative is again one of underrepresentation. A person with a disability may or may not opt to disclose his/her disability to an employer. Any perceived stigma associated with the disability and the degree to which the disclosure may influence an employee's experience in the workplace will likely influence his or her decision, as will the extent to which the sector as a whole is inclusive of people with disabilities. At the council's 2017 annual conference, we made an intentional effort to create an experience that was more inclusive of people with disabilities. We hope we succeeded, but we also recognize that our effort, and the efforts of other organizations in this regard, must be part of a broader commitment by the sector to attract, retain, and advance a pool of talent that reflects the diversity of American society.

The council's Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey continues to be a valuable dataset with respect to the diversity of the philanthropic workforce. As conversations regarding the representation of women and people of color in the field have advanced, so too has our ability to track the shifts among these demographics within the survey. As the sector's cultural competency with respect to additional dimensions of diversity advances, new groups of people will be able to bring their whole selves to work. Our hope is that the sector will learn to leverage this diversity of talent, and the diversity of thought and perspective it brings, to better serve our communities. With a concerted sector-wide effort and a little luck, we fully expect this diversity will soon begin to "show up" in our report and other benchmarking surveys.

Headshot_floyed_mills_250x300Floyd Mills is vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Council on Foundations, where he provides leadership related to the development and implementation of strategic initiatives designed to support the council’s internal and external goals.

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An excellent analysis, especially in this time when the LGBT community is even more under attack than usual. So important to address the issue at all levels, kudos to the Council on Foundations for addressing the issue with data and intent.

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