Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Julie Beckel Nelsen


Organizational Leadership, Ethics and Leadership



Low wages in nonprofits have led to a focus on pay equity as a major concern for sector leaders. Some hypothesize that the low wages result from the sector’s association with “women’s work.” As such, the undervaluing of nonprofit labor reflects the lack of value placed on women’s labor. There are major gaps in the literature about feminist leadership and about how nonprofits can address pay equity. This qualitative study explored how feminist leaders are advancing pay equity in nonprofits through semi-structured interviews with five self-identified feminist leaders with experience leading nonprofit pay equity efforts. Acker’s (2006) inequality regimes and Brown’s (2017) emergent strategies were used as theoretical frameworks to interpret the findings. The results of this study demonstrated that willingness to question existing norms and introduce small, iterative changes over time are ways that feminist leaders work toward pay equity in nonprofits. The four themes of this study illustrate recommended actions for feminist nonprofit leaders working toward pay equity: Challenge the Status Quo, Operate with Transparency, Create a Supportive Work Environment, and Lead Sector Change.

Pay equity is a much-discussed topic in nonprofits, with many nonprofit leaders grappling with questions about aligning their compensation systems with their expressed values and commitments to equity. Women make up the majority of the nonprofit workforce, yet we know little about the connections between feminism, leadership, and pay equity. This study seeks to give voice to the practices of feminist leaders advancing pay equity within nonprofits.