For the charitable heart, there are hundreds of worthy causes to support in the world and thousands of different nonprofit organizations that work to fund those causes, whether it’s putting an end to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), saving the whales, or providing clean water for people in sub-Saharan Africa. But a new study out of Georgetown University indicates that there is a gender divide when it comes to how people actually support those causes.
The study, released by Georgetown’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, reveals that 45 percent of Americans are active supporters of charitable causes, which include those related to the environment, politics, and society, among other categories. However, women comprise a significantly larger portion of that 45 percent, which was derived from the results of an online survey that sampled 2,000 Americans ages 18 and over in late 2010.
That’s not to say that both genders don’t like to give back or participate in causes. The study reports that a large proportion of both men and women care about causes like feeding the hungry, supporting U.S. troops, and fundraising for diseases like breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Women had significantly higher levels of support for involvement with bullying, breast cancer research, childhood obesity, and feeding the hungry.
Women are also more optimistic about the power of getting involved with these causes, the report says. 80 percent answered that they thought anyone could make a difference by supporting causes, and 49 percent reported that they were “very” or “somewhat” involved in causes (compared to 73 percent and 41 percent, respectively, for male respondents).
It’s interesting, then, to hear other reports about gender with regard to making an impact on society’s problems. A study from late January by The White House Project found that female workers comprise 73 percent of the nonprofit sector, a figure that agrees with the Georgetown survey. However, the leadership at these nonprofits is disproportionately dominated by males—only 45 percent of the CEOs at nonprofits are women, and beyond that, only 21 percent of the CEOs at nonprofits with budgets of $25 million or more are women.
Even a cursory scan of the boards of directors at some of the most influential non-profits shows a disparity. The national officers for the American Cancer Society, leadership for the United Way, the board of governors for the American Red Cross, the board of directors for the World Wildlife Fund, the leadership for Autism Speaks, and even the board of directors for The Trevor Project skew largely male. One of the few organizations I found in my quick search with a more even gender spread is the board of trustees for AIDS United.
With the amount of enthusiasm women exhibit toward causes, it’s curious that so few hold upper-level managerial roles for nonprofits. Even in a sector dominated by female involvement, women haven’t been able to overcome the hangovers of our not-quite-gender-equal society, where female management isn’t as prevalent or as valued as male management.
While it wasn’t a part of the Georgetown survey, I’m willing to bet that correcting gender inequalities is another movement where women dominate in their dedication to the cause.