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March 17, 2018, 10:01 a.m. EDT

There are more women CEOs in this industry, but they still get paid less than men

Women are the boss more frequently than men in portions of this industry

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By Maria LaMagna


Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
There are few women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, but more in nonprofits.

There are still relatively few women who are CEOs of companies in almost all industries — with one major exception. Women CEOs are leading the way in the nonprofit world and, in some areas, they outnumber male CEOs. That’s according to a new study from GuideStar, a research firm that focuses on nonprofits.

• Women in 2015 made up 57% of the CEOs of nonprofits with an annual budget of less than $250,000, up from 53% in 2005.

• They also made up 57% of the CEOs of nonprofits worth between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2015, up from 54% in 2005.

• However, men make up the majority of nonprofit CEOs for companies worth $1 million or more. For those worth more than $50 million, just 22% of women were the CEOs in 2015.

Another area where things haven’t changed: Female CEOs are paid less than male CEOs of nonprofits. The median compensation for these women CEOs in 2015 was 7% less than men’s for nonprofits with budgets of $250,000 or less. And women who are nonprofit CEOs at organizations with budgets greater than $50 million were paid 21% less than their male counterparts in 2015.

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One way to combat that pay gap: Stop asking women how much they made at previous jobs, to give them an opportunity to earn more and negotiate when they take a new position, said Jennifer Chandler, the vice president of the National Council of Nonprofits, an association for nonprofit organizations.

Some cities including New York and San Francisco have already made it illegal for city agencies to ask prospective employees their current incomes, in an effort to close the wage gap.

Still, the relatively high number of women who make up nonprofit CEO spots is unusual compared to other industries. As of January 2018, just 27 of the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, or 5.4%, are women.

Among them are Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -0.34% , Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM +0.09% , Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo /zigman2/quotes/208744353/composite PEP -0.31% , Lynn Good, CEO of Duke /zigman2/quotes/201480230/composite DUK -0.01%   and Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle /zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL +0.28%

/zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL +0.28% Karen Haycox, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity New York City, which currently has projects worth a collective $20 million under way, said she feels she has been compensated fairly throughout her career. “We’re a business like any other business and we have a bottom line,” she said.

“We don’t let our standards be dictated by the minimum standard required by law,” she said. “There’s something very appealing potentially about that for women.”

But there has been some progress. Of all the CEOs who were replaced in 2017, women accounted for 18% of their replacements, up from 15.3% in 2015, according to research from global outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

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Maria LaMagna covers personal finance for MarketWatch in New York.

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