The state of diversity in environmental organizations is not good

A new report from Dr. Dorceta Taylor at the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources & Environment paints a not very good picture of the state of gender, racial, and class diversity in Mainstream NGOs, Foundations & Government Agencies as it pertains to the demographic characteristics of their boards and staff. While the report pertains only to US organizations, Canada’s Sustainability Network states that “most ENGOs today have very little diversity and don’t reflect or authentically engage the communities they serve. This disconnect is most apparent in Ontario where over half of Canada’s visible minorities reside and where 1 in 5 of the country’s Aboriginal peoples live.”

Among the US research findings:

  • All three types of environmental institutions have made significant progress on gender diversity over the last five decades, but the gains have mostly gone to white women, and much remains to be done.
  • Men are still more likely than females to occupy the most powerful positions in environmental organizations. More than 70% of the presidents and chairs of the board of conservation/preservation organizations are male. Size matters too. The presidents of the largest conservation and preservation organizations (budgets over $1 million) are overwhelmingly male (90%). Men also dominate the executive director positions in government environmental agencies. Males are far more likely than females to be on the staff of government environmental agencies.
  • The current state of racial diversity in environmental organizations is troubling, and lags far behind gender diversity.
  • Cross-race and cross-class collaborations are still uncommon in environmental organizations.
  • Environmental jobs are still being advertised and environmental organizations recruit new employees in ways that introduce unconscious biases and facilitate the replication of the current workforce.
  • Environmental organizations do not use the internship pipeline effectively to find ethnic minority workers.
  • The environmental professionals interviewed felt that, in general, diversity in environmental organizations has improved over time, but significant work has to be done to make the workplace more inclusive and welcoming to a broader range of people. The dominant culture of the organizations is alienating to ethnic minorities, the poor, the LGBTQ community, and others outside the mainstream.

GallonDaily’s experience as a long-time participant in the Canadian environment sector suggests that, despite differences between Canada and the US, similar findings would apply to country.

The 175 page report. an executive summary, and a highlights document are available at . Free registration is required to obtain the documents.

Information about the Canadian Sustainability Network’s Environment and Diversity Project for environmental NGOs can be found at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s