One of the most painful business meetings that Susan Egmont ever sat through was a lunch during which the attorney for a nonprofit instructed the executive director of the organization not to return to the office.
The executive, who had worked at the nonprofit for 34 years, wasn't being terminated. In fact, he already had announced his retirement, recalled Ms. Egmont who runs a Boston-based executive staffing firm for nonprofits.
"But three months later, he was still at work every day, saying he was doing projects or cleaning out his files," she said. "He had a pretty messy office and was cleaning it up, but he was mostly continuing to worry about the organization and all the people in it."
Such a scenario may be extreme, yet it illustrates widely held concerns among nonprofit workers and managers that they may not be able to carve out a new identity once they retire because their lives are so wrapped up with the organization's mission, Ms. Egmont said.
For women in the nonprofit sector, the anxiety can strike even deeper because many earn less than male counterparts and retirement may instill fears of financial insecurity.
Ms. Egmont will address the issue of how seasoned nonprofit leaders can make the transition from careers to full-time or part-time retirement this morning during a meeting of the Kitchen Cabinet -- a group of 150 women and men who work in for-profit, nonprofit, government and volunteer positions, and who are assisting the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University in finding solutions to shrink the gender gap in the nonprofit sector.
The Bayer Center is conducting ongoing research through a foundation-funded project, "74 Percent: Exploring the Lives of Women Leaders in Nonprofit Organizations."
The project takes its name from Bayer Center research that found that while 225,000 or about 74 percent of the 300,000 people employed in nonprofits in the Pittsburgh region are women, men consistently out-earn their female counterparts.
The most recent data, released in January, showed women executive directors earned 74 cents for every dollar paid to men. While the average salary for male executive directors at nonprofits was $126,690, female executive directors earned $94,232.
"Because of low salaries for women in the [nonprofit] field ... and because people [in nonprofits] are focused on a mission of serving the community, sometimes they don't focus on themselves and many women are approaching retirement ill-prepared financially," said Ms. Egmont.
She suggested women in nonprofits plan other work to engage in as they wind down their full-time careers. Some options include conducting research in a different field of study or consulting with groups or organizations other than the one they are about to leave.
She tells them to resist invitations or inclinations to consult or work in a smaller role at the place from which they are exiting -- at least right away.
"Unless the focus is on the new chief executive, there can be a problem getting that new person rooted in the environment to lead effectively. It requires superhuman discipline to really be gone."
Prior to launching her own firm 14 years ago, Ms. Egmont, 59, worked for the Boston Private Industry Council, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Before earning an MBA and working in the nonprofit sector, she was a teacher.
She is one of three speakers scheduled to appear via videoconference at today's Kitchen Cabinet to be held at the offices of Downtown law firm K&L Gates.
The others are Michael Daigneault, chief executive of Quantum Governance, a Washington, D.C.-area consulting firm who will discuss how nonprofit boards of directors can engage in effective leadership; and Alice Eagly, an author and professor of psychology at Northwestern University who will address how to nurture the careers of young women professionals at nonprofits.
Joyce Gannon: email@example.com or 412-263-1580.