Women Identify Gender Issues in the CDFI Industry
Last month, FUND Community Institute began releasing findings from its landmark study, Perception versus Reality: Women and Change in the CDFI Industry (available at www.fundci.org). Over the course of the next year, we will be sharing additional findings from the study on a monthly basis. This first installment provides specific examples and perceptions of gender discrimination.
The findings from the study reveal that although the CDFI industry is perceived as more welcoming and that women can succeed more than in other industries, gender discrimination remains an issue in the industry. The survey findings showed that roughly 25% of women have felt discriminated against and/or felt limited in opportunities in the CDFI industry because of their gender. A slightly larger percentage, 31%, felt there are disadvantages to being a woman in the CDFI industry. The findings also suggest that gender discrimination might be more widespread but is often overlooked and dismissed because the environment is generally more positive for women.
One of the goals of this research was to document women’s stories and provide a forum for their voices to be heard. Therefore the following are both examples of gender discrimination and perceptions of disadvantages in the industry taken from more than 100 written comments and interview transcipts, in their own words.
Examples given by women of gender discrimination:
- Requesting that women perform clerical duties even when at the same level as the male.
- Speaking in a patronizing way / “mansplaining”.
- Needing to bring a male along to get traction with a room of all-male investors.
- Having questions directed exclusively to the male member of the group.
- Receiving a lower salary than male colleague even when having more experience.
- Taking credit for a female’s work.
- Assuming and commenting that pregnant women would leave the workforce.
- Being ignored or talked over by males or having to say something several times to be heard.
- Assuming there are certain things only men can do like finance and physical activities.
- Having to put in 2 to 3 times the work as a male to earn credibility.
- Inappropriate touching or looking at female body parts.
Perceptions of disadvantages for women in the industry:
- “Not looked at as having same level of skills and ability to make deals as males.”
- “When pitching issues/funding to traditional ‘circles’ sometimes the pitch is valued more from a male.”
- “Perception: Our funding partners my prefer to work with make CEO’s, directors of lending.”
- “Like many other industries, it is still very much an old boys club. Men (mostly white men) are in the highest positions of leadership at the largest, most profitable CDFIs.”
- “Being a woman there is unconscious bias of acting differently toward you and knowledge and skills, despite demonstrated achievements yet male instances of incompetence is rewarded or overlooked.”
- “Assumption of not being strategic and business oriented.”
- “Women tend to make lower salaries then men and are not promoted into leadership roles.”
- “The disadvantages are lower expectations, both from women themselves and male superiors, peers, etc. As far as I’m concerned until sexism and other bias is eliminated, the disadvantages persist.”
- “I believe being a woman in any industry that gives more weight to men’s accomplishments and more men in top leadership positions puts all cis/trans women at a disadvantage.”
- “Unequal pay, unequal respect, lack of representation on senior level and board membership.”
- “In each CDFI organization, there is the appearance of inclusion or the mission promotes inclusion, but in reality, the C-level woman is a token.”
- “Women’s voices and opinions aren’t heard as loudly as men’s.”
- “Harder for our voices to be heard. Women walk a fine line when they are strong and assertive.
- Pay in the industry is lower because it has more women involved, men’s voices tend to be louder and more quickly accepted, just as they would be in other fields and for the more heavily female junior staff the senior leadership still leans more heavily male.”
- “Inherent discrimination against women with leadership traits.”
- “Not being taken seriously, or being perceived as too aggressive for a woman. A threat to some.”
- “Not seen as competent or valued.”
- “Women are still paid less than men, even though we have a lot of women in the industry. I think women also face more barriers to being thought of as financially smart/savvy within the larger financial industry CDFIs are a part of.”
- “Have to work extra hard to prove your value.”
About the Research
The research was conducted in 2018 and included an online survey and key informant interviews. More detailed information is available in the report (http://www.fundconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/FUNDCI-Perception_vs_Reality.pdf).
FUND Community Institute (FUND CI)
FUND CI was founded in 2017 as part of the family of FUND Consulting organizations. In an effort to support the CDFI Industry, one of the main activities of the organization is to conduct and disseminate research on CDFIs and related topics. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.