I Was the Only POC at My Nonprofit Job, and I Felt Like a Token
As we largely served communities of color, this was problematic on many levels
Ilooked around at a table of upper-middle class, White women, eager to make a difference in inner city Los Angeles. Keyboards clicking away. Coffee cups overdue for refills. Ideas flying for the next big event. This was my day-to-day as an employee of a nonprofit that serves teen girls, who are mostly people of color. I was the only person of color on staff, and every day I went into the office, “Would they come for me today?” was a constant, anxious thought.
I got started in nonprofit work during my second year in L.A. I was searching for a way to connect with like-minded people and to give back to the community. This particular nonprofit stood out to me in my online search because it combined creativity with empowerment towards children. After volunteering as a mentor for two years, and after living abroad in 2018, I was intrigued. The company was hiring for a staff position so I submitted my application the same day I found the job opening.
I thought my love for creative arts and writing, my teaching experience abroad, and my type A planner personality would make me a great fit for nonprofit work. The initial interview was in-house with two staff members, the CEO, and the Communications Manager. I did not, however, meet the entire team. Within two weeks, I received a call letting me know I was selected for the position. I was stoked. I had a passion to work with youth, especially teen girls. What else could I need?
After weeks of training, I quickly noticed the team’s leadership all looked the same. Upper class and upper-middle class, middle-age White women. I did not readily think that this was problematic, but in the nonprofit world, this homogeneity is actually commonplace. According to Community Wealth Partners, people of color make up a mere 18% of nonprofit staff, while they make up 30% of the American workforce. Leadership in the nonprofit and foundation world is overwhelmingly White, with 80% of the industry’s top positions held by White people. These findings show that despite minorities’ equal credentials and the desire for promotion in the nonprofit sector, bias in the interview process benefits…