Press Release

New Report Finds Little Change in Proportions of Women and Minorities on Foundation Staffs

Report Is a Comprehensive Examination of Changes Over a 10-Year Period

Despite concerted efforts by the field to advance more diverse, inclusive, and equitable recruitment and retention practices, the proportions of women and racial/ethnic minorities on foundation staff and at the most senior levels of leadership has changed very little over the past five and 10 years, finds a new report from the Council on Foundations.

The State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector reveals that for several years, women have represented the majority of the philanthropic workforce, and yet there remains a disproportionate representation of women in leadership positions when compared to other levels within participant organizations. The representation of racial/ethnic minorities over the last five years is essentially unchanged, both overall and among leadership positions. The representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities in fact decreases when moving from the administrative level, to the professional level, to the executive level staff, and significant differences in representation exist among organizations of different sizes.

“Our report raises important questions about why there hasn’t been more change in the diversity of our institutions in recent years, despite the steps taken to create a more diverse and inclusive philanthropic sector,” said Council on Foundations President and CEO Vikki Spruill. “The retention and development of a diverse talent pool is critically important as the demographics of our nation continue to change. We hope this report will spark a robust dialogue about what works and what we can do to make progress in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

State of Change uses two data sets to paint a picture of the diversity within the field and how the demographics of foundation staff have changed over time. A matched set of 455 foundations that participated in Council surveys from 2011 to 2015 is supplemented by an observational set examining responses submitted to Council surveys in both 2006 and 2015. The observational data set includes over 6,000 positions for 2006 and over 8,000 in 2011.

Key findings from the report include: 

  • Although women represented 77 percent of professional positions in 2015, there remain potential obstacles to leadership, with women compromising only 60 percent of executive leadership (a 17-percentage point difference).
  • There are almost identical figures when examining the 10-year observational data set: a 75 percent to 25 percent split among women and men, and a change of less than one percent over time.
  • From 2006 to 2015, there was a 1.68 percentage point increase in the total number of racial/ethnic minority staff reported, moving from 22.65 percent to 24.33 percent.
  • An examination of the matched set echoes this broader observation, with a 0.76 percentage point difference between 2011 to 2015. This marginal change was consistent when examining year-over-year demographic data for foundations by asset levels and age, with few notable exceptions.
  • From 2006 to 2015, changes in racial/ethnic minority representation did see notable differences among foundations with over $1billion in assets. Within this cohort, representation of racial/ethnic minority staff among all levels grew 4.1 percentage points over the 10-year period, moving from 31.5 percent to 35.6 percent of staff reported.
  • In the matched set, however, while foundations with over $1 billion in assets were home to more diverse staff, there was little change in the proportions of racial/ethnic minority staff over that time period, increasing less than one percent in five years.

To download a copy of The State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector, visit


About the Council on Foundations

An active philanthropic network, the Council on Foundations (, founded in 1949, is a nonprofit leadership association of grantmaking foundations and corporations. It provides the opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance and sustain their ability to advance the common good. With members from all foundation types and sizes, the Council empowers professionals in philanthropy to meet today’s toughest challenges and advances a culture of charitable giving in the U.S. and globally.

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