Women CEOs earn 16 per cent less than men

Rowena Lewis, Clore Social Fellow

Women CEOs earn 16 per cent less than men3

Finance | Tania Mason | 17 Nov 2011

Women chief executives in the voluntary sector are paid on average 16 per cent less than their male counterparts, according to Acevo’s latest pay survey.

While overall CEOs' salaries have risen by 3.5 per cent to a median of £60,000, the median basic salary for men was £63,000, while for women it was £53,400.  And compared to last year, pay for men has increased while women’s salaries have dropped. The pay gap has widened from 11.3 per cent to 15.9 per cent over the year.

The growing disparity has been attacked as “outrageous” by Clore Social Fellow Rowena Lewis, who is due to publish her Clore report on women’s leadership and equality in the charity sector in January. “That rise is purely down to the male pay packet, while women have missed out altogether.”

She told “These figures show that the sector needs to sit up and pay attention to what is happening to women in the sector – that is the challenge for Acevo and the like. We are the sector that promotes social justice – if we can’t get it right within our own ranks, how can we expect to have a wider impact?”

The annual study analysed pay and benefits information from 603 chief executives and 125 chairs, members of Acevo, Acosvo in Scotland and CO3 in Northern Ireland.

More women head up smaller charities

The authors of the pay survey report suggested that the gender pay gap is largely attributable to the fact that women chief executives tend to head up smaller organisations while the larger charities are dominated by male CEOs.

“Breaking down pay by gender and size of organisation, we can see that most of the gender pay gap appears to be due to there being disproportionately fewer female leaders of large organisations,” said the report.

“The majority of CEOs of organisations with incomes under £1m are women, while for larger organisations the reverse is true, and we have already seen that CEOs in larger organisations have higher salaries.”

Women paid less in every size of charity

But taking the median salary from each gender within each organisation size, women are still paid less. Male CEOs of small charities (less than £1m income) are paid a median of £42,541, as opposed to women’s £42,000.

Men heading up medium-sized organisations (£1m to £5m) are paid a median of £61,000, as against £59,040 for women.

And those women that lead large charities (over £5m income) earn a median salary of £86,500, less than the median £87,280 paid to men.

Lewis added: “It’s right to say that more men are CEOs of bigger charities but the increase in the pay gap can’t be attributed to that.  The same members were surveyed last year and this year, so we can conclude that men have been receiving pay increases while women haven’t.”

Other headline findings were:

  • The median basic salary of sector CEOs in 2011 was £60,000, up 3.5 per cent from £57,974 in 2010
  • The median basic salary for CEOs based in London was £67,700, while for those in the North West it was £52,500
  • The median basic salary for those organisations with more than 1,000 employees is £125,000
  • Almost 94 per cent of CEOs are white, down from 96.7 per cent in 2010
  • The best paid CEOs are those in the sport/recreation sector, with median salaries of £72,000, while the lowest paid were those working in overseas aid and famine relief (£48,500).


Beverly D'Costa
Senior Manager
26 Apr 2012

Hmmm, barriers to diverse leadership in the sector. Check out the graduates from the clore leadership programme. Can you see a pattern?

Claire Thompson
Waves PR
17 Nov 2011

It strikes me that the diffrential in wages is pretty small when comparing like for like at the kinds of salries we're talking about, but that the problem is a glass ceiling - getting women into those bigger charity roles. I'd also take a look closely at women's access in the sports/recreation sector - I'd stake a bet that those are male dominated, in which case there a small sector throwing these figures out, and one that could be tackled to really make a difference a s women's sport starts to get the credit it merits.

More shocking, surely, is that tucked away at the bottom fact that less than 6% of the CEOs are non-white. That really is a hugely unrepresentative sample of British talent. Given that charities usually attempt to redress a balance, that's a shameful statistic.

Rowena Lewis
2010 Clore Social Fellow
Clore Social Leadership Programme
18 Nov 2011
Response to [Claire Thompson]

Claire, you make some exceptionally valid points here. The study that's due to be released in January takes the first step in building a picture of women's representation by size of organisation and sub-sector but so much more needs to be done.

And if you think the 6% stat is shocking, the civil society Leadership Survey earlier this year found that it drops to a paltry 3% in the top 100. Why is this? What are the barriers to diverse leadership across the sector? These are the questions that the bodies representing our people should be asking. It's an embarassment that our sector, of all sectors, seems to take the question of diversity so lightly.


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