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New survey shows the gender leadership gap in the non-profit world

The corporate world is famous for its all-too-often shatter-proof glass ceilings and old-boy network sexism. But, as a new study of Jewish non-profits highlights, the non-profit sector isn’t exactly a beacon of gender equality either.

When Jane Eisner became the editor-in-chief of The Forward, the largest and oldest running national Jewish newspaper, she was shocked by how few of the leaders of non-profits were women. As she explained to me, “I come to The Forward and that first summer in 2008 my boss takes me around to meet all these Jewish leaders and they were all men. So, I’m thinking, well, just because this was my anecdotal experience doesn’t mean that’s in fact the landscape.”

So, Eisner decided she would look at the actual data. In 2009, The Forward published its first salary survey which determined that only 11 of the 75  biggest Jewish non-profits had women leaders. Today, The Forward came out with its 6th annual salary survey.

Spoiler alert: this year’s results demonstrate, once again, that women are under-represented and earn less than men in the Jewish non-profit sector. But this is precisely why Eisner is committed to publishing the survey. “I really want to keep putting the spotlight on the dearth of women in leadership,” she explains. “I mean, about three-fourths of the people who work in these non-profits are women and we’ve only had 12-14% of the leaders being women. I’m just committed to doing this until it becomes no longer necessary. And I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”

Though the survey focuses on Jewish non-profit organizations, it highlights problems endemic to non-profits in general. And many of the Jewish non-profits deliver services to non-Jews, which makes the issue relevant to Jews and non-Jews alike.

And now, without any further ado, some of the most important take-aways from this year’s survey:

  • The five most overpaid CEOs of Jewish non-profits were all men.
  • Only 17 percent of all not-for-profits (Jewish and not-Jewish) with budgets larger than $50 million had a female CEO.
  • In the Forward survey, only one woman — Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service — has a budget that size.
  • Out of 1,368 evangelical Christian charities, not a single one with a budget greater than $50 million had a woman CEO.
  • Evangelical organizations do, however, have a higher percentage of women in leadership roles in general, compared to Jewish organizations: 17.5 to 14.9 percent.
  • In Jewish organizations, women only earn 81 cents to every man’s dollar.
  • A man running an average Jewish organization earns $337,000 on average. A woman earns $280,000.
  • Among the 19 Jewish religious and educational institutions listed by The Forward, women lead only two.

The Forward also made a video, found above, featuring Stosh Cotler of Bend the Arc, Ruth Messinger of American Jewish World Service, and Naomi Adler of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia discussing work-life balance, flexible work scheduling, salary transparency, and how each of them personally pushed for a fair salary and got the big appointment.

Check out more findings from the survey here.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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