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Monday, Oct 3, 2022
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Female Executives Playing Catch Up

There are top female executives in the greater San Fernando Valley but mostly they are in the traditionally lower paying non-profit sector – and for that they are paying a price. Locally, only two of the top 50 publicly traded companies in the region are headed by a female executive, while fully 48 percent of the top executives on this year’s list of the largest non-profits in the greater San Fernando Valley are women. What’s more, the pay-gender gap is even pronounced within non-profits. The average salary of a male executive heading one of the 40 organizations on the list is $279,898, while female executives average less than half of that at $144,645, according to 2011 filings with the Internal Revenue Service. (The organizations file Form 990, which provides detailed information about revenue, assets and expenditures.) “There is a culture of sacrifice in the non-profit sector that says that you can’t be doing good while doing well,” said John Tropman, a professor of non-profit management at the University of Michigan who has studied the inequity and written several books and academic papers on the topic. “And generally speaking, female executives make less. It seems like women have a harder time asking for what they deserve.” But while the gap is unmistakable, the situation is a mixed bag for female executives. Women have gained ground in terms of raw numbers and those gains are important, some local non-profit leaders say, even if they have made financial sacrifices to get there. “Women have been able to make headway in the non-profit world and took those jobs because traditionally women were the second bread winners, and it was OK if they earned less,” said Jan Sobel, chief executive of West Valley Boys & Girls Clubs. “But that’s been the nemesis for women in non-profits. They’ve been willing to work for less in the past, so women keep getting paid less.” Life’s work The approach to work at a non-profit is inherently different than work at a private-sector job, and that comes with the territory, say many local executives. “I came into this with a certain understanding of what I’d be making, and that it wouldn’t be a big salary,” said Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, chief executive of North Hollywood’s L.A. Family Housing, which operates 22 local properties for low-income housing or emergency housing for homeless. And with funding often in flux, and a public perception that donated money should go toward the charity and not overhead, the prospect of seeking a pay increase is daunting. “Quite honestly, I’ve foregone a pay increase several times because it was going to be too big of a hit to the bottom line,” said Gamer. “And every time I make more, I have to go out and fundraise more.” That, said Tropman, the professor, is true for much of the sector. “A lot of what plays into the gender gap is that the largest organizations, the ones with money to pay executives more, are still dominated by men,” he said. “Women have made greater gains in the industry, but the bigger (the organizations) get, the more male-dominated they are.” In the Valley, the five largest non-profits are headed by male executives, including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, Motion Picture & Television Fund and Front Porch Community and Services. But one local male executive says the gender gap isn’t as noticeable in day-to-day operations. Mark Loranger, chief executive of Pacoima’s Chrysalis, which trains homeless for job interviews, says he thinks of non-profits as more egalitarian than the private sector. “Generally, I think that in the non-profit world, it is more equal footing,” he said. “My second in command is a woman. Maybe not at the executive level, but in other job levels, I know that women make more than men.” Changing the trend Joel Poznansky is co-author of a national report set to be released this week by Association TRENDS, a Bethesda, Md., a think tank on association management. He said executive pay is more than just representative of their own place in the organization. His report found a growing discrepancy between employees in similar jobs in the private and non-profit sector – and the key indicator for much of the disconnect in wages lies at the top. The lower the salary of the group’s top executive, the lower the compensation for workers further down the totem pole. “The key executive compensation is the indicator of all of the other positions,” he said. “So if they make less, then everyone else makes less.” Some women executives say they’re tired of making less, and there are ways to change the dynamic. Take Lois Lee, founder and president of Van Nuys organization Children of the Night Inc., which works to combat human trafficking. Lee founded the group in 1979, and considers it part of her identity rather than a job. But as she nears retirement, there was concern for her future. “Recently, everyone started saying that I needed to earn more in order to even plan for a retirement. We were finally forced to look at it,” she said. The board commissioned a compensation study from actuary firm Towers & Watson LLC. The study found a substantial pay gap, given her value to the organization and its assets and revenues. “After the report, the board dramatically increased my salary, but in the past, no matter what I was making, it raised eyebrows on the board,” she said. Lee’s 2011 salary, at $238,961, makes her the second highest-paid woman on the list at tenth overall. She now makes about $250,000 annually, still below the average male salary on the list. Klasky-Gamer, Sobel and Loranger said their organizations all use external measures of compensation, moving the discussion outside of an insular board of directors. The benchmarks are a way to make the decision more objective and less influenced by individual biases. “By looking at other organizations that have budgets similar to yours, it’s a way to make the salaries comparable based on what you do and not on gender or ethnicity or anything else,” said Sobel. “It can make it more competitive not just for the executive, but also for the other employees who work for them.” Gender Gap The pay of the highest compensated chiefs of non-profits in the greater San Fernando Valley is substantially higher for the top men than the top women. Average Male Salary: $279,898 Average Female Salary: $144,645 Top Males: Gary Wheeler, Front Porch Communities and Services $790,020 Robert Beitcher, Motion Picture & Television Fund $751,651 John Heubusch, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation $537,639 John H. Cochrane III, be.group, $439,332 Gary Hickman, Junior Achievement of Southern California $321,829 Top Females: Dianne Van Hook, College of the Canyons Foundation $359,356* Lois Lee, Children of the Night $238,961 Ivelise Markovits, Penny Lane Centers $205,393 Paula Wilson, Valley Community Clinic $190,425 Cynthia Sewell, New Horizons $140,097 *Dianne Van Hook’s salary as chancellor of College of the Canyons is paid through the Foundation. All data collected from 2011 IRS forms 990. Download the 2013 VALLEY’S NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS list (pdf)

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