February 10, 2017; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“We can’t declare victory,” says Peggy Outon, executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University. She was speaking of the recent data from her Center’s survey, which found that since 2015, the situation for female leaders of Pittsburgh-area nonprofits has improved; the pay gap has narrowed, going to 81 percent of male earnings from 75 percent.
Average salaries for women leaders covered in the research increased from $101,475 to $104,365 in two years, while men’s salaries shrunk to $128,779 from $135,170 in that time period. It seems that, nationally at least, women have made greater gains among the smaller nonprofits, since, according to GuideStar’s 2016 study based on nationwide data, the wage gap is only eight percent in that segment.
Outon doesn’t claim her organization’s study is scientifically valid—it’s based on self-selected reporting of 186 nonprofits, spanning small to large organizations—but she does believe it has some currency in showing the upward trend in compensation for women in this important sector. Companies in the study alone employed 14,000 people in the Greater Pittsburgh region.
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The Bayer Center has been tracking overall compensation since 2000 for the nonprofit field through such undertakings as the social justice-focused 74 Percent Project. (“74” here refers to the percentage of women among the staff of Southwestern PA NPOs.) This endeavor, intended to foment supportive advocacy, serves as a snapshot of issues central for women, including leadership and pay: “Nonprofit organizations are the bastions of social justice: Justice is attempted for those served but not as often for those serving,” reads one poster the Bayer Center created.
In March 2015, NPQ reported on the project, noting that the pay gap had significantly improved since 2002, when female executives earned 67 cents to the male dollar. Nevertheless, the still ineffaceable disparity is striking, particularly since 64 percent of nonprofit leaders in Southwestern Pennsylvania were women (though this leveled off when looking at larger organizations).
Will women ever reach compensatory parity with men in nonprofits—or anywhere else? Outon believes so, noting the hue and cry within the entertainment field, where the statements of some high profile actresses and actors have garnered much media attention, and that the contentious millennials dialed into social media will make more noise: “Society is saying, ‘What’s up with this?’ I think younger people are going to be really impatient with pay inequity,” Outon stated.
This remains to be seen. Some studies attribute much of the disparity to the different concentration of women and men in certain key lower-paying fields, and to the fact that women work fewer hours. Bloomberg reports the common thread in research that lack of affordable childcare and paid parental leave across gender lines is an influential factor that must be addressed to further shrink the wage gap. If the youth do indeed come to understand the causes of this malady for those who serve, they may be able to relieve their symptoms.—Louis Altman