Theses Doctoral

How Women Learn to Become Influential Directors on Nonprofit Boards

Levitan, Pazit

This qualitative case study was designed to explore the ways by which women become influential board members in nonprofit organizations. To address this problem, four research questions were explored in order to shed light on the experiences of women on nonprofit boards.This study is based on the following assumptions: (1) women who serve on nonprofit boards have the capacity to be role models and, as such, can empower other women to assume leadership roles; (2) women are motivated to serve on nonprofit boards because they see it as a catalyst for their own career growth and development; (3) due to 2nd generation bias and other underlying barriers, women have to work harder than their male counterparts in order to reach senior positions on the board; and (4) women are forthcoming in describing the challenges they have faced, and willing to share ways in which they overcame those challenges.

The women selected to participate in this study were all seasoned board directors who have been serving on nonprofit boards for a minimum of five years on a voluntary basis. The primary sources of data were in-depth interviews with 10 female board members, a focus group of 4 women who met the same criteria as the participants, but who were not part of this study, and a document review of relevant material.

The primary findings emanating from this study were: (1) women who joined nonprofit boards had a passion for the mission and a desire to give back to the community; (2) women learned to become influential board members by working hard, while collaborating with their board colleagues; (3) women articulated that the challenges they faced revolved around dissension among peers; and (4) women described overcoming these challenges by developing good relationships with board members and other stakeholders.

The principal recommendation resulting from this study is that training and development programs should be implemented for: women of all ages who seek a nonprofit board position; boards of directors of nonprofit organizations that aspire to improve the governance performance and interpersonal relationships within the board; and current board members who would take on a mentoring role. A “train the trainer” program for educators and executive coaches should be implemented in order to advance the performance of the board.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Thesis Advisors
Volpe, Marie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2022