De’netta Benjamin, executive director of Sojourner House
Over nearly two decades, Peggy Outon has studied the pay gap narrowing between male and female nonprofit executives in the Pittsburgh region. In 2010, for instance, women made 75 cents for every dollar men made. By 2019, that shifted to 82 cents.
But a 2021 report from the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management showed a dramatic jump that surprised even her. Women in leadership roles at Pittsburgh-area nonprofits now make 92 cents for every dollar men make in similar roles.
“What is particularly pleasing to me is to see that the reason the pay gap narrowed this time is because we have more women of power in larger organizations,” said Outon, who leads the center at Robert Morris University. “And I believe that will help create permanent and sustainable change not just for executives, but for all women working in nonprofits.”
Yet the promising news has a contrasting backdrop. The report that spans 185 nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh region also suggests a racial disparity in who benefits, a lack of overall diversity and a contingent of employees who make low enough wages to qualify for public assistance.
The Pittsburgh region has thousands of nonprofits, and Bayer notes that the survey only reflects the state of organizations who responded. According to the survey, white or caucasian executive directors received an average of $124,824 in annual compensation, while Black or African-American executive directors received an average of only $107,087. A lack of representation, however, complicates the results.
When calculating median salary, the figure is $7,000 higher for Black or African-American directors, compared to white directors. But only 16 of the surveyed organizations reported having Black or African-American leaders, compared to 133 organizations with white leaders. And overall, Black or African-American workers made up less than 17% of employees across the 185 nonprofits.
De’netta Benjamin, executive director of Sojourner House, a nonprofit that provides residential addiction treatment services to mothers, feels there is room for progress in promoting equity across both gender and race.
While happy with the closing gender pay gap illustrated by the report, Benjamin pointed to a 2020 study from the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise [PACE], which found that nonprofits primarily serving communities of color are funded inequitably compared to those serving white or mixed communities.
“Because executive pay is tied to your budget, if we are funded inequitably, then we cannot expand our budget,” said Benjamin. “And that means that more African-American executives, especially if you serve a minority population, you’re going to be in a situation where your pay is not going to be equitable compared to others.”
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