Study: Association CEO Gender Gap Isn’t Going Away

While female CEOs are rising in numbers, according to a new study from CEO Update, their financial compensation has yet to reach the level of their male counterparts, especially at large associations.

Women are more likely to find themselves at the top of the association leadership chart than in years past, but the association CEO gender gap persists.

That’s according to a new study from CEO Update [paywall], which shows that, even as more women take chief executive roles at large associations, they’re paid substantially less than their male counterparts. More details:

Progress has been made: Even though salary issues persist, women are slowly making their way into top leadership roles. CEO Update’s Association Intelligence database, based on 2011 tax filings, shows that a quarter-century ago, just two women led trade groups with revenue north of $10 million. Today, 21 of the 124 such organizations have female chief executives (17 percent), and 20 percent of the 545 chief executives in the salary study are women.

Unfortunately, it took until about the last decade for women to break through that glass ceiling.

The salary divide: On the salary front, the difference is pronounced, particularly at organizations with more than $50 million in revenue. (However, the report notes that, with just 12 female executives at that level, the sample size is small.) While the highest-paid female association executive, the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Pam Bailey, makes $1.98 million, her highest-paid male counterpart, the Edison Electric Institute’s Tom Kuhn, earned $6.73 million in 2011. The Washington Post notes that the energy industry has suffered some regulatory setbacks recently and asks, “Is Kuhn actually worth 3.4 times as much as Bailey?”

The counterpoint: According to CEO Update‘s research, many leaders don’t see an overt attempt to discriminate, noting that several factors—including an executive’s experience and the association’s individual characteristics—play a role. And at one revenue level, the research contradicts the overall findings: At organizations that earn between $15 million and $25 million in revenue, the median salary for women CEOs was $36,000 higher than the median for their male counterparts.

Beyond the C-suite: Nationwide, the wage gap persists for all employees, according to a recent study by the Women’s National Law Center, which shows that for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents. In Washington, DC, however, the gap is much smaller—with women making 90.4 cents for each dollar a man makes. Nationwide, the gap varies widely—from 33.4 cents in Wyoming to 13.3 cents in Vermont.

Ultimately, the increase in female executives is a recent development, and change is still in progress.

“Women have arrived and are increasingly moving up and taking on these larger associations,” Russell Reynolds Associates’ Denise Grant told CEO Update. “Unfortunately, it took until about the last decade for women to break through that glass ceiling.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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