Women Nonprofit Executives on Leadership and Success

More than half of all women working in nonprofit organizations today want to be CEO someday. That figure increases to 72 percent of women aged 18 to 24.1 These future leaders have many strong examples and potential mentors to look up to as they pave their way to the executive suite, as 45 percent of non-profit CEOs are women.2 This is far ahead of corporate America, where only 24 of the Fortune 500 companies are led by women - a dismal 4.8 percent.3

For women who are working toward a senior leadership position (in non-profit or elsewhere), and those who are sitting there now, there’s an ongoing conversation about ascending the business ladder. This discussion occurs in private offices and board rooms, in family homes and networking sessions. It commonly focuses on several primary themes:

  • What skills and experience are necessary to become a successful leader?
  • What personality traits need to be developed and honed to achieve such a senior role?
  • Are personal compromises (such as family life) required to assume such significant professional responsibility?
  • How to encourage and foster the next generation of women leaders?

Recently, Cresa’s Mindy Saffer, LEED AP, managing principal, led a discussion among women executives in the non-profit sector about what led to their professional success. The event was part of a lunch program during the annual Associations @ Work conference hosted by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Between ten and twelve women sat around a table and discussed what they felt contributed to them achieving a leadership role, the challenges they face, and how they mentor the next generation of women leaders.