The CEO of a large nonprofit based in Washington D.C. recently announced her resignation in a public statement. She took the opportunity to call attention to her own and the organization's efforts toward "embedding racial equity into our operations, our culture, our work." Ironically, however, two black nonprofit executives filed separate race discrimination lawsuits last year that name the CEO, a non-black woman, as a defendant.
Both plaintiffs worked under the former CEO in different organizations, and both alleged racial discrimination and retaliation. In one case, the plaintiff describes racially offensive comments from another senior leader which the defendant former CEO failed to address. The plaintiff in the other case claims the defendant former CEO led "uncomfortable" discussions with several employees of color about racial inequalities in the nonprofit, yet no "meaningful change" occurred.
Both plaintiffs allege the former CEO had been purposefully vague in her criticisms of their performance, making improvements difficult. They both state the defendant terminated them in retaliation for speaking out about workplace discrimination.
A 2016 Race to Lead survey of nonprofit employees found that black women in particular believe their race negatively impacted their career development in terms of jobs and promotion, wage rates, and mentorship opportunities. They also cite having to fight the "angry black woman" stereotype. Directors of this survey note that these experiences are no different than those in the for-profit sector but can often be overlooked because of the charitable nature and culture of the nonprofit industry.
The parties in one of the lawsuits have agreed to settle. The other case is pending. Sydney Trent "A racial reckoning at nonprofits: Black women demand better pay, opportunities" www.washingtonpost.com (Jul. 11, 2021).