WASHINGTON – The YWCA voted overwhelmingly Saturday to allow men to help direct its operations for the first time in its 148-year history, eliminating a policy that allowed only women to serve as leaders of its nearly 300 local affiliates.
Passed by 70 percent of its voting members, the decision marks a big change for the organization but comes as a compromise just five years after an unofficial vote to keep men out of leadership roles.
The new measure, passed at the organization’s annual meeting, allows each chapter to decide whether to accept men through a proposal to the national board, which will develop a new policy later this year.
Men had previously been allowed as volunteers or staff or associate members but could not serve as voting members or directors.
Lifting the ban on male leadership for local affiliates also could lead to the nomination of men for national posts, said YWCA chief executive Peggy Sanchez-Mills.
The YWCA’s women-focused programs – including shelters for domestic violence, child care centers and job training – would not change, Sanchez-Mills said. Its core mission remains eliminating racism and empowering women.