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Some may say that it might be a little excessive to feature the gender wage gap two weeks in a row in this column, but we think that the persistent income inequality that women face deserves even more.

On April 14—Equal Pay Day—the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management (BCNM) at Robert Morris University is hosting “The Great Debate,” the first fundraiser for The 74% Project. The Great Debate will feature leaders in media and the nonprofit sector in an exchange that takes off from the idea that “nonprofits have more important priorities than addressing pay equity.”

The 74% Project is a research initiative at BCNM that explores the lives of women nonprofit leaders. Women make up 74% of the nonprofit workforce—markedly higher than the average 47% of the total workforce—yet receive only $.74 cents for each $1 that men do. (The national pay gap is not much better at .78 cents to $1) .

In other words, in the nonprofit sector, there are three women for every man in the workforce, yet women get paid more than 25% less for their work than men.

If that is not enough, consider this infographic from BCNM:

These dismal numbers galvanized the BCNM to action. According to Executive Director Peggy Outon, “This problem for the social justice sector has led to extensive research and led to the formation of the 74%:Exploring the Lives of Women in Nonprofits project.”

According to BCNM Program Manager Carrie Richards, “When the first Wage & Benefit Survey for Southwestern PA Nonprofit Organizations was first conducted in 2000, women in the nonprofit sector in our region were making $.67 on the dollar compared to men. In 2012, when the 74% project had a lot of momentum behind it, we were making $.74 on the dollar, and in the most recent version just published last month, we had gained a penny, and are currently making $.75 on the dollar.”

An eight cent raise in 15 years is not enough to bring women’s salaries on par with men’s.

Moreover, Richards adds that nonprofit leadership changes as the size of the organizations grow. “We have found that in smaller nonprofits—those with revenues under $1 million—66% of executive leadership are women. But that number completely flips over in large nonprofits with over $7 million in revenues—in those 67% of executives are men.”

Both the wage and leadership representation gaps impact nonprofit performance.

Researchers at Catalyst—the leading consulting group advocating for women in business—and investment bank Credit Suisse have found that companies with higher representation of women in the executive level significantly outperform companies that don’t. The Catalyst study found a 35% higher return on equity (ROE) and the Credit Suisse study found 27% higher ROE.

Significant change requires participation by both men and women, at every level of the sector—including the boards.

The BCNM hopes that the 74% project plays a pivotal role in that change.

The Great Debate on Equal Pay Day will lend voice from many perspectives that affect the issue. Outon says, “We will hear reflections on government’s role in addressing the situation, workers motivation in an unfair situation, how compensation as a whole needs to support the worker with paid leave and other humane practices, how better to encourage responsible boards of directors to better provide equitable compensation practices over time.”

The debaters on April 15 will be Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation; Daria C. Crawley, Ph.D. of Robert Morris University; Ruth Ann Dailey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Dutch MacDonald, President and CEO of MAYA Design and Erin Molchany, Southwest Director for Governor Tom Wolf.

Outon underscores the importance of keeping our focus on the problem. “Left unaddressed, the pay equity issue will threaten the quality of life and health of our communities by severely limiting the attraction and retention of talent. This is both a moral and a practical issue. This debate is past due.”

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment....