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Decent Work for Women: A Literature Review of Women Working in Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector

This review critically analyzes literature on the experiences of women working in Ontario’s nonprofit sector, from a wide variety of sources, in order to:

● Paint a current and relevant picture of women’s employment experiences in Ontario’s nonprofit sector
● Identify any gaps in research and data
● Inform the development of future key activities for ONN’s larger project on Decent Work for Women Working in Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector


The nonprofit sector is women-majority but not always women-led

The nonprofit sector in Ontario is women-majority as 75% to 80% of the workforce is women. While the sector has more women in leadership positions than the public and for-profit sectors, the 75-80% employment share is not reflected at the leadership level. Women are underrepresented in senior leadership positions and men are overrepresented. Women are more likely to lead smaller organizations, and smaller organizations make up a large part of the sector.

Unequal job opportunities and a glass ceiling exist for diverse women

Immigrant and racialized women are concentrated in the immigrant, refugee and settlement services subsector where they also make up a majority of the workers. They are more likely to be in frontline rather than senior leadership positions. Overall, there is a lack of data on how many immigrant, Indigenous and racialized women, women from the LGBTQ community, and women with disabilities work in the sector.

Women in the nonprofit sector have lower compensation then men

Nonprofit sector wages are lower than other sectors, in large part because of a phenomenon known as the “care penalty”, despite the fact the workforce is highly educated and experienced. Within the sector women experience a gender wage gap as they earn less than men, especially in senior leadership positions. Limited access to a pension plan and maternity top-ups in the sector are particular challenges to women’s economic advancement.


Date of publication: March 2018


Publisher: Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN)

About Lucie Morillon

Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

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