Really good posts from Ohai and CFAvsMBA on this.
I was rather surprised by this statement from numi: “Curiously, a lot of the non-profit girls I’ve met come from pretty good schools and I’m not sure what drove them to non-profits,” The corrolary bing that no one with an education would do non-profit work.
Nonprofit work is hard. Because not only are you not allowed to make a profit, you can’t make a loss either. So you have to hit a budget target exactly, not try to hit-or-exceed it.
As far as the women in non-profits. There tend to be two types: there are the development people, who go out and try to get donations or contracts, and then there are the management types who actually run projects and divisions. The ones who run projects of any size have to be as smart and as savvy as private sector managers, and they are competing with other non-profits on quality and price and fees, just like private sector folks. Sometimes they are even competing with private sector companies directly. The ones who do the donations tend to be prettier and more outgoing, because men with money are more likely to listen to their pitch just for the opportunity to spend a lunch or a dinner with an attractive woman, and that makes them more effective in their job, just like relationship managers in the investment world.
People in non-profits have to care about the substance of the mission, or they will just burn out. There are relatively few non-profit people who last long if they do not care about the mission (with the exception of the administrative assistant straff, who may be content to come in for a 9-5 job). It is true that with the global recession, some people work at non-profits because they couldn’t find anything elsewhere, but non-profits do not like to hire people who are not interested in the non-profit’s mission. It’s even more important than in the private sector, where people tend to assume that as long as you’re paid enough, you’ll be happy. Turnover costs in non-profit work are also high, so the importance of the mission is very relevant in hiring.
Senior non-profit people can rake in handy compensation as well, although just like the private sector, there can be a big pay difference between the top and the bottom, and it creates the same kinds of jealousies and envy you see in the private sector.
Non-profit women tend to have to be articulate and knowledgeable, because they have to make good arguments about things that are often hard to argue. This is why you see a fair number from good schools. If you think conversation is important, and you can stand a little pushback on your ideas, that can be good. However, these women generally come with a strong dose of feminism (and often other liberal ideas), so if that’s not your cup of tea, be aware of that. Personally, I’ve always had mixed feelings about feminism. I like having more intelligent, capable women around, and I think that limiting women’s options to being secretaries and mothers and teachers was wrong, but I also think that some feminist women feel that anything that’s bad for men is automatically good for women, or that proving their feminist credentials requires being nasty towards men, and I’m not on board with that.
From what I know about you, numi, I think you might like some of these non-profit women. Be forewarned may be a bit conflicted because non-profits won’t pay as much as you’re likely to be making. They will like the fact that if they are with you, they don’t have to worry so much about this, but they will worry about you having too much power over them. That’s not unique to non-profit women, of course, but they will be much more conscious and aware of this, and it could cause them to keep changing their minds about how they feel about you.