“We Have to Fit the Men in Somewhere”: Explaining Gender Inequality in the Fundraising Profession

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Mary-Beth RADDON, Brock University, Canada
This qualitative interview study examines how professional fundraisers grapple with occupational gender subordination, including gender segregation, the gender wage gap, the speedier promotion of men to top-ranked positions, and the sexual objectification of young women fundraisers by affluent male donors. When fifty senior Canadian fundraisers were invited to reflect on the status of women fundraisers, they defaulted to neoliberal discourses of individualism, attributing gender inequality to personal choices guided by innate sex differences. Women were said to be drawn to work requiring the soft skills of fostering relationship--intuiting needs, listening, nurturing and communicating--in addition to multi-tasking and giving attention to detail. Men were thought suited to positions requiring technical, analytical, financial, or leadership skills, which happened to be better compensated. To interpret these patterns and responses, I analyze gender inequality as an embedded feature of neoliberalism, not merely an outcome or effect. Neoliberalism obscures gender inequality by making women's location in structures of constraint appear to be the free choices of equal market agents. The career success of certain women, who can operate socially as homo oeconomicus, the idealized entrepreneurial subject of neoliberalism, diminishes the possibility to speak about gender inequality as a political issue. Three neoliberal feminine subjectivities available to women fundraisers offered subordinate paths to career satisfaction: the self-sacrificing worker whose service and altruism sustains and subsidizes her struggling organization; the enterprising professional capable of instrumentalizing her emotional capacities and "people skills" for competitive advantage; and the "cute," hyperfeminine fundraiser, able to perform as a well-groomed accessory to the successful businessman philanthropist. Each of these subjectivities helped women fundraisers adapt to low pay, ghettoized work, or sexualization by configuring their adaptations as serving themselves and their worthy nonprofit causes.