LGBTQ Nonprofit Staff of Color Face Dual Barriers to Leadership

LGBTQ Nonprofit Staff of Color Face Dual Barriers to Leadership

Nonprofit staff of color who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer face multiple challenges to career advancement based on their race, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity and are twice as likely to cite race as a barrier than sexual orientation, a report from the Building Movement Project finds.

Funded in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the report, Working at the Intersections: LGBTQ Nonprofit Staff and the Racial Leadership Gap (30 pages, PDF), analyzed responses from the 21 percent of nonprofit staff who self-identified as LGBTQ in the Race to Lead (26 pages, PDF) survey released in June. Of the LGBTQ respondents canvassed for the report, 61 percent were white and 39 percent were persons of color; 65 percent were female, 24 percent were male, and 11 percent were transgender, non-binary, or other; and 45 percent were millennials, with higher percentages of millennials among respondents of color (53 percent) compared to those who were white (40 percent).

According to the report, 59 percent of all LGBTQ respondents said their sexual orientation had no impact on their career advancement, while 38 percent of LGBTQ respondents of color identified race/ethnicity as a barrier to career advancement. In addition, gender/gender identity was cited as a barrier by 30 percent of LGBTQ staff of color and 29 percent of their white peers, followed by social/economic class (26 percent and 10 percent) and sexual orientation (18 percent and 19 percent). In addition, 48 percent of LGBTQ staff of color expressed interest in taking on an executive director or CEO role, compared with 36 percent of their white peers.

The report also found that LGBTQ respondents were more sensitive to issues of race and race equity than their straight peers of the same race, with LGBTQ staff of color slightly more likely than their straight peers to see race as having a negative impact on their career advancement (38 percent vs. 34 percent), while white LGBTQ staff were more likely than their straight white peers to be aware of their race as having a positive impact (69 percent vs. 45 percent) on their career prospects. LGBTQ staff also were more likely than their straight peers to say that nonprofit leadership does not reflect the racial/ethnic diversity of the United States; that predominantly white boards often fail to support the leadership potential of staff of color; and that nonprofits led by people of color have a harder time raising funds. At the same time, the survey found that LGBTQ organizations were seen by a significant majority of LGBTQ respondents of color as not reflecting the needs of the broader LGBTQ community (77 percent), the concerns of people of color (73 percent), and the concerns of low-income people (73 percent).

The report calls on nonprofits to address racism through a multifaceted and intersectional lens — focusing on dismantling systemic racial barriers while acknowledging anti-LGBTQ, gender, and class bias — and on funders and associations to push nonprofits to adopt non-discrimination policies that include sexuality and gender identity and to establish systems for monitoring and addressing discrimination.