Foundation CEOs Experience Gender Pay Gap

By Ruth Masterson, Exponent Philanthropy

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year. The average American woman would have to continue to work through this date in 2017 to earn as much as the average American man in 2016.

The Pay Equity Landscape

According to the most recent data, women earned 80 cents compared to $1 earned by men for the same work. Research shows that the pay gap is even worse for African American women, Native American women, and Latinas, whether you compare their average salaries against overall men’s salaries or the salaries of men within the same race/ethnicity. Asian American women experience a smaller inequity than women overall, but the pay gap persists for them too.

Nationally and across all sectors, pay equity improved greatly between 1960 (when the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data) and 2000, from 60 cents on the dollar to approximately 78 cents. Since 2000, however, the rate of progress has slowed dramatically.

Our own salary data for foundation members by gender goes back to 2004 and, as with the national data, also shows a lack of progress in recent years.

The ratio of women’s salaries to men’s does not show improvement over the past decade among CEO/executive directors of Exponent Philanthropy member foundations.

Recent Data on Foundations With Few Staff

Our 2017 Foundation Operations and Management Report shows that female executive directors/CEOs earn, on average, 85 cents compared to $1 earned by their male counterparts. This holds true regardless of the staff person’s region or years of experience.

The average woman’s salary is about $22,000 less than the average man’s among CEO/executive directors of Exponent Philanthropy member foundations.

Taking Action Through Benchmarking

One way that small-staffed foundations can work toward pay equity for executive directors is to use our data to benchmark current salaries. Nicole Baran, executive director and board member of The Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation, shares how she did just that:

Reviewing Exponent Philanthropy’s report, I noticed that I was earning less than men in the same foundation asset range and with equivalent experience working at foundations. I brought the data to the attention of my board, and they immediately raised my salary.

To decrease the gender pay gap, I recommend foundations benchmark women’s salaries against the male average rather than the overall average, because the overall number is skewed lower by the inclusion of women’s salaries, which are, on average, 15% too low.

Our foundation is focused on women’s equality, but every organization can do their part to address pay inequities by both requesting, and granting, salary increases to match those of men.

Exponent Philanthropy members can access these benchmarks within their free, mailed copy of the 2017 Foundation Operations and Management Report; non-members may purchase our most recent data on salaries and other foundation operational issues.

Ruth MastersonSenior Program Director Ruth Masterson works closely with members to create written materials and training curricula, and answers member questions on foundation administration, governance, boards, and tax and legal topics. Prior to joining Exponent Philanthropy, Ruth served nonprofits in her work at Adler & Colvin, the Council on Foundations, Build Community Arts Center, and San Francisco BayKeeper.

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