The Pay Equity Question: Fueling the Debate

Carrie Richards, Programs Teams Leader, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management


Q: What’s the secret to earning 25 cents more on the dollar?
A. Be a man.


The mustaches signify the suggestion that women in nonprofit might earn more if they were, well, male.  And the data indicate women would indeed receive more equitable pay, according the research of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Shedding light on the reality of wage inequity for women in the nonprofit sector is the mission of the Bayer Center’s 74% project, which takes its name from the majority of the sector that is female in the Southwestern Pennsylvania nonprofit workforce. As that proportion is consistent within a few percentage points around the country, the 74% project will now take the essence of more than five years of research and advocacy to the debate stage on April 14.

And about that wage gap? “It is painful to see that the nonprofit sector, as documented in the BCNM 2015 Wage and Benefit Study, still has a 25 cent pay gap between men and women executives in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” says Peggy Morrison Outon, the Center’s executive director and founder of the 74% project.

On “Equal Pay Day,” Tues., April 14, “The Great Debate” will pit regional opinion leaders against one another in a public debate about how nonprofits take responsibility for gender pay equity. The event will draw nonprofit, business, government, and foundation leaders–as well as the employees working within the 74%.


Nonprofit boards of directors must own their responsibilities as employers and citizens and refuse to allow pay inequity to be the norm    – Outon

The event’s date symbolically illustrates how far into the following year a woman must work to earn the same amount made by a man in the previous calendar year. Even the location is historically significant;  the Twentieth Century Club in Pittsburgh’s “eds and meds” Oakland neighborhood was founded by women who were not permitted to join their own husbands’ private clubs.

Five invited debaters range from the head of a foundation promoting women and girls to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. They will choose sides around the event’s resolution:

“Nonprofits have more important priorities than addressing pay equity.”

“Each debater brings their perspective on the reasons why pay equity persists, what problems it creates for society, how the situation can be changed and what the future holds for the nonprofit workforce,” says Outon.

Featured debaters are: Heather Arnet, CEO, Women and Girls Foundation; Daria C. Crawley, Ph.D., Robert Morris University; Ruth Ann Dailey, columnist, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Dutch MacDonald, President and CEO, MAYA Design; and Erin Molchany, Southwest Director for Gov. Tom Wolf. Grant Oliphant, President and CEO, Heinz Endowments, is event emcee and host. Penina Leiber, Partner, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, will serve as debate moderator.

Prior to the debate, audience members will vote to agree or disagree with the resolution via their mobile phones. Following the discourse–conducted in the style of a presidential debate–a repeat poll will rate the debaters’ pro and con arguments.

Event guests can comment on the event’s suggestion to “Be a Man” at the Mustache photo booth. Hashtags including the ironic #BeAMan, the desired #25centsmore, and the reality-based #74percent will accompany social media posts.

What the 74% Project Reveals

Since 2008 the BCNM has been raising awareness about the pay inequity of the 74% or some 225,000 nonprofit workers in an 11-county region. The project draws on analysis of the nonprofit workforce throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania through the bi-annual Wage and Benefits Survey, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews with 100 female and male managers in the sector.The research has revealed concerns with not only pay inequity but with professional development, turnover rates, and discrimination based on gender, race, and age. In addition, 74% has strongly illuminated the reality that a generation of nonprofit leaders are moving into retirement or reinvention mode–leaving many nonprofits that lack appropriate succession plans and, in many cases, administrations who are ready to move into top leadership roles.

What does Outon believe should drive changes in this picture?
“Nonprofit boards of directors must own their responsibilities as employers and citizens and refuse to allow pay inequity to be the norm,” says Outon. “The 74% campaign began in 2008 and with each passing year, we have seen increased public attention to equal pay for equal work.”

She describes this as both a practical and a moral imperative and sees BCNM as charged with helping nonprofits be the most effective and efficient partners to community health. Outon also believes “that equation must also include a dedication to fair treatment of all people. Through its research and advocacy, it has captured broad media and public attention for the 74% conundrum.

“Building on four years of research, national experts, community buzz and a whole lot of media (nearly 4 million media impressions to date), BCNM’s 74% with its Great Debate intends to extend these conversations…moving the dialogue out of the Ladies Room and into the boardrooms – where fairness can become the order of the day and the nonprofit, social justice, sector can lead society as it should,” Outon observes.

74% has a “Kitchen Cabinet” comprised of 170  leaders from the nonprofit, business and government community. Last spring, 74% commissioned Tami Dixon of Bricolage Theater to build a short theater piece based on the interviews done by Outon.

Watch this video from the event at Bricolage Production Company featuring the company’s co-founder Tami Dixon, Bria Walker, and Laurie Klatcher act out women’s words on realities of the “Mommy Track.” Video by Parish Digital for BCNM

Next up? A book compiling the project’s research, including the voices of the 74%, and fueled by the Center’s Indiegogo, kicking off on Equal Pay Day at the Great Debate.

About the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management BCNM also offers workshops on topics such as: collaboration, technology, fundraising, marketing, innovative financing, human resources, and on various management topics presented by national experts. BCNM is a partner to the Master of Science in Nonprofit Management degree at Robert Morris University; provides information and referral services; conducts applied research; and serves to convene in-depth discussions on the problems of society addressed by nonprofit organizations. For more information, go to
Third Sector Today follows the work of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management. Check out these posts and request a 74% infographic poster from the Center.
Podcast interview with Peggy Morrison Outon

Wage Reality of Women in Nonprofits


Yvonne Hudson

About the Author: Yvonne Hudson, who has written and edited content for TST since its roll-out in 2013, is principal of New Place Collaborations in Pittsburgh. She loves creating mission-driven marketing solutions for nonprofit clients, including marketing the 74% project for the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University. As a staff member, board member, and volunteer, Yvonne has participated in aspects of capacity-building including programming, fundraising, and board and audience development for diverse higher education, arts, and other nonprofit organizations. She is a member of the board of Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks and the Twentieth Century Club.