Women are grossly underrepresented on top grantmaking boards in Minnesota. Of the top
ten grantmakers in the state in 2007, who together allocated $227,171,297 in grants last year
(Minnesota Council of Foundations 2008), only one currently has 50 percent women on its board
of directors. Further, four of these top grantmaking boards have only one woman board member.
Arguments for the equal representation of women on governing bodies have generally focused
on the political sphere, and electoral quotas are now an accepted means of achieving gender
balance in many nations. Additionally, both the Democratic National Committee and the
Minnesota Democrat Farmer Labor party have required proportional representation of some kind
since the 1980s (Shipley 2006). Women’s groups have also turned their attention to the gender
makeup of corporate boards over the past decade, with several national groups devoted to
tracking and increasing the number of women corporate board directors both in the United States
and abroad. As major funders of the nonprofit sector, grantmaking boards not only decide where,
when, and how to allocate grant dollars, but also help to define sector-wide funding priorities,
shaping both attitudes and organizations. The national philanthropic community has long
recognized Minnesota as a leader and innovator in corporate and foundation grantmaking (Pratt
and Spencer 2000). With a philanthropic sector commanding over $17 billion in assets in 2006
(MCF 2008), the state has developed a unique culture of giving that makes it not only a regional
center for grantmaking, but also a productive area of study for those interested in foundation
governance. In addition to this tradition of philanthropy, Minnesota has a history of both social
and legislative support for gender equity. With the passage of the State Government Pay Equity
Act in 1982, Minnesota became the first state to provide pay equity for state government
employees, a requirement which the state extended to local government entities in 1984
(LCESW 1994). The Pay Equity Act sent a strong message that gender equity in the workplace
was about more than ‘equal pay for equal work.’ Rather, the legislation applied the concept of
comparable worth in order to account for the ways in which gendered power disparities are both
socially-constructed and highly institutionalized.
Duffy, Katherine. Increasing Women's Representation on Foundation Boards: Frameworks and Strategies for Minnesota. May 15 2009. May 27 2009.
professional paper in partial fulfillment of the Master of Public Policy degree requirement
Increasing Women's Representation on Foundation Boards: Frameworks and Strategies for Minnesota.
Hubert H Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
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