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closing the gender pay gap
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Closing the Gender Pay Gap in the Nonprofit Workforce

closing the gender pay gap

Looking to close the gender pay gap and change the story for the women behind your mission? I recently attended a lively panel discussion during The Collaborative about the gender gap in the nonprofit workforce. The panel was moderated by a gender equity consultant and certified coach, along with three female experts, collectively uncovering the root of the gap and sharing examples of evidence-based interventions.

When talking about pay at nonprofits, the gap is not due to a shortage of women striving toward leadership roles. Seventy-two percent of women in nonprofits are under age 35 and 64% of women ages 35–44 said they wanted to hold leadership positions. But who is filling these leadership positions? Studies show that the bigger the nonprofit, the bigger the gap. While women leaders make roughly 8% less than male leaders at groups with a budget of $250,000 or less, the disparity widens to 25% for groups at the $25 million or higher level.

So what can nonprofit organizations do to narrow this gap? Read on to see what gender gap experts had to say.

Conduct a Compta Ratio

“Compta”, which is short for “compensation” or “comparison” ratios, is defined as the percentage obtained by dividing the actual salary paid to an employee by the midpoint of the salary range for that position. A compa-ratio of 1.00 or 100% means that the employee is paid exactly what the industry average pays and is at the midpoint for the salary range. A ratio of 0.75 or 75% means that the employee is paid 25% below the industry average. A great time to apply the compta-ratio is during the interview process when the salary is brought up. It is encouraged that HR use a compta-ratio to see where their offer sits in the range. This is especially important for mid-to-late career women. The moderator of the panel Lindsey Lathrop noted, “according to an estimate by Pew, women ages 25-34 have closed the gap to 83 cents to the dollar. But for older women, the gap remains much larger.”

Sustain a Support System for Women of Color

White women make up 77% of the total earnings white men make, this gap is felt even more towards women of color. In comparison to white men, did you know that Black or African American women make up 61% of total earnings? Did you know that Hispanic women make up 53% of total earnings? When hiring people of color, it’s important to make sure they’re being paid the same as their white counterparts, but it’s even more important to avoid making them feel tokenized and feeling like they have to speak up on behalf of their entire culture (one Asian-American employee must speak for all Asian Americans, or what one Black person says or does can be imbued on all Black people.) In order to retain this talent, non-profits should aim to create environments that do not tolerate workplace discrimination, either experienced or anticipated. 

Promote Female Leadership to be a Sponsor, Not Just a Mentor

Goodbye passive advisory and hello action! While mentors are there to provide tips and strategies and help navigate unwritten rules, sponsors are there to connect proteges to career opportunities. So why does this matter for women? One of the panelists Evelyn Murphy, President of the WAGE Project Inc., said, “women are over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers. And the numbers don't lie. Men are 45% more likely to have a sponsor than women.” When women have a sponsor, great things happen. For one, 38% of sponsored women vs. 30% of unsponsored women will ask for raises - sponsored women are likely to get it. An example of being mentored vs. being sponsored looks something like this:

If you’re looking to have a group of people at your organization speak up for their proteges, advocate for their proteges, and use their political capital, encourage them to become a sponsor to an individual (or multiple individuals.) They can do this by making sure their people are considered for promising opportunities and challenging assignments. Another way to encourage your senior leadership to take on a sponsorship role is to expose their proteges to other executives that may help their career. While being a sponsor is a bit more risky as they are putting their reputations on the line for their protege’s career advancement, it’s important that both stay committed in order to further opportunities for women within the organization.

Encourage Reflection

To implement this habit, employers should schedule personal inventory time each month for their employees. It doesn’t have to be long - let’s say 15-30 minutes. They can spend time with these questions every month:

    • What did I learn this month?
    • What surprised me, and why?
    • What am I grateful for?
    • Who am I grateful for?
    • What am I tolerating?
    • Where am I now? Where do I want to be in the future?

Through this practice, encourage employees to be honest with themselves, take note of patterns, and identify something they would like to focus on for the month. The truth is, without time for reflection, we are merely being reactive.

While the gender gap in the nonprofit workforce is growing more narrow, there are still improvements to be made on the organizational and individual level. As someone who started their non-profit career only a year ago, I’m shocked to learn how prevalent the gender pay gap is within an industry that is largely run by women. But, I’m hopeful that with the right attention from leadership, and willingness to change, will we create more equal pay opportunities for women and the future generations to come.