Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Despite Dominating the Industry, Women at Nonprofits Lag in Pay

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Despite Dominating the Industry, Women at Nonprofits Lag in Pay

Article excerpt

Maybe one reason female professionals in the nonprofit sector make less than their male peers can be traced back to the volunteer work that women have contributed to social service organizations over the past couple of centuries.

In recent decades, women have achieved more powerful and prestigious roles at nonprofits. Their wages just never caught up.

That's one theory proposed by Teresa Odendahl, an author, researcher and nonprofit executive who will address the gender gap today at events sponsored by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University.

The Bayer Center is conducting a foundation-funded project, "74 Percent: Exploring the Lives of Women Leaders in Nonprofit Organizations," as an effort to explore why women's earnings trail men's and how to reduce the disparity.

In a study released in early 2011, the Bayer Center reported that women account for 74 percent of the approximate 300,000 people employed by nonprofits in southwestern Pennsylvania and hold 56 percent of the executive positions. But the female executive directors earned an average $89,354 annually compared with an average $118,652 for their male counterparts.

At a meeting this morning at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Ms. Odendahl will address members of the Bayer Center's "Kitchen Cabinet" -- a group of 150 women and a sprinkling of men who represent corporate, academic, nonprofit, volunteer and government sectors, and who were convened to assist with the 74 Percent project.

From noon to 2 p.m. she will appear at a lunch at the Allegheny HYP Club that is open to the public.

In a 1994 book that she co-edited, "Women & Power in the Nonprofit Sector," Ms. Odendahl put forth the hypothesis that employment in the nonprofit sector has always been dominated by women. Take for example, Jane Addams, a pioneer in the field of social work who opened the Hull House settlement in Chicago in 1889 to provide services such as medical, legal and child care for the poor and immigrants.

Nonprofit work "is gendered female," Ms. Odendahl said in a telephone interview. "It grew from an extension of work in the family and a lot of work done in the sector is still thought of as women's work. For whatever cultural reasons, that work is undervalued in our society."

When she started researching the book about 20 years ago, women earned an average 59 cents for every dollar earned by men, said Ms. Odendahl. Nationwide, that figure has risen to 82 cents on the dollar, she said citing a report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

But pay for female executives of nonprofits still lags men's at a national average of 69 percent of male salaries, she said. "Strangely, the more demanding the occupation and the higher skill and education required, the greater the wage disparity. …

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