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Is the Glass Ceiling Weakening? Highlights of the 2006 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report


Excerpts from the executive summary

The 2006 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report is based on 108,606 observations from 63,065 Forms 990 filed by 501(c) organizations with the IRS for fiscal year 2004. Among the highlights:

  • Median compensation of females continued to lag behind that of males when considering comparable positions at similar organizations.

  • Females held 57 percent of CEO positions at organizations with expenses of $1 million or less but only 36 percent at organizations with expenses of greater than $1 million. Overall, women held 44 percent of the positions reported upon but received only 33 percent of the total compensation.

  • There were indications that females were making up ground relative to their male counterparts at organizations with budgets of $25 million or more. Median compensation increases from 2003 to 2004 for women incumbents generally outpaced those of men for most positions. Results were mixed for smaller organizations.

Compensation Gap

As in past reports, women's compensation lagged behind that of men. Females, however, made gains between 2000 and 2004. For example, in FY 2000, median compensation of male CEOs at the very largest organizations was 45.7 percent higher than that of women. The FY 2004 difference is a still substantial, but much smaller, 25.6 percent.

Women in the Nonprofit Board Room

Median percentage increases in compensation for incumbent female CEOs were generally larger than those received by males from 2003 to 2004. In organizations with budgets of $10 million or larger, that was also true for other top positions. In smaller organizations, the results were mixed.

Median Increase in Incumbent CEO Compensation by Gender, 2003-2004

Budget Size Females Males
Greater than $50 million 8.5% 6.7%
Between $25 million and $50 million 7.0% 5.4%
Between $10 million and $25 million 5.2% 5.3%
Between $5 million and $10 million 4.6% 4.3%
Between $2.5 million and $5 million 4.4% 4.0%
Between $1 million and $2.5 million 3.7% 3.7%
Between $500 thousand and $1 million 4.0% 3.4%
Between $250 thousand and $500 thousand 3.7% 3.6%
$250 thousand or less 3.0% 1.9%


Women did not make significant progress between 2000 and 2004 when it came to getting their share of top positions. They continued to hold the majority of positions at organizations with budgets of less than $1 million. As budget size increased, however, female representation in the top positions decreased quickly. They held 57 percent of the CEO positions at organizations of less than $1 million but only 36 percent at organizations larger than that. At the very top of the sector, organizations with budgets of more than $50 million, females held only 14 percent of the CEO positions. Except for the smallest organizations, female representation in the corner office was essentially static in 2004 when compared with 2000.


Chuck McLean, September 2006
© 2006, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Chuck McLean is GuideStar's vice president for research.
Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice