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Cracking the Glass Ceiling

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pittsburgh -- Women constitute 74 percent of the nonprofit workforce in western Pennsylvania, yet they are paid only 75 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

What’s more, women hold few positions of senior leadership at large nonprofit organizations, according to the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University.

In response, the Bayer Center is launching “74%: Exploring the Lives of Women in Nonprofits,” a research and community awareness project that aims to narrow the wage gap and develop successful career models for women in nonprofits. The three-year project is being funded with grants from the Eden Hall Foundation and the Bayer USA Foundation.

The project grew out of the Bayer Center’s biennial nonprofit wage and benefit survey, conducted in conjunction with the United Way of Allegheny County. Nonprofits employ 300,000 people in the Pittsburgh region, representing approximately 10 percent of the local economy. The wage gap has narrowed since 2000, when it was 67 cents on the dollar. But it is still worse than the overall national wage gap of 80 cents.

“This reality exists in nonprofit organizations, which are supposed to be bastions of justice – a justice that seems too often attempted for those served, not the people who are serving,” said Peggy Outon, executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management.

The 74% initiative is being co-chaired by Sylvia Fields, executive director of the Eden Hall Foundation, and Rebecca Lucore, executive director of the Bayer USA Foundation, which is a major funder of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management. Lucore is the chair of the Bayer Center advisory board.

The Bayer Center is recruiting a “Kitchen Cabinet” of corporate, nonprofit, academic, and government leaders to guide the 74% project. More than 100 people have signed on thus far, including Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto; Deborah Acklin, president and CEO of WQED Multimedia; and RMU President Gregory G. Dell’Omo.

“As the largest funder of organizations that are led by women and support women, it is important to the Eden Hall Foundation to do whatever we can to strengthen female leadership,” said Fields. “However, it is not an issue that is only important to women. A very diverse group of people is coming together to solve this problem. It is an issue that is not only important to women.”

The research component will be overseen by Darlene Motley, associate professor of human resources at RMU and head of the Department of Management. Research will probe the causes of the glass ceiling in the nonprofit sector, the implications of the wage gap on women’s careers and lives, and ways to remedy the situation.

The Bayer Center plans to publish its research in academic journals and share the results with the community, culminating in a symposium the final year of the project.

““This project represents a significant workforce issue for this region, and it reaches across all sectors. Nonprofits interact civically with volunteers from our communities and with leaders from the corporate sector who serve on their organization's boards," said Lucore.

The Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University was founded in 1999 to provide the necessary tools for nonprofit organizations to effectively manage and compete in today's society. The center works with clients to assure that the money invested from public and private sources is efficiently and effectively spent to advance their charitable mission. The center offers consulting services and workshops in many areas including: board development, business planning, collaboration and alliances, financial management, fund development, organizational effectiveness, technology planning, and other management topics. For more information, go to

The Bayer USA Foundation is an endowed 501(c)(3) entity and is the primary source of Bayer Corporation’s philanthropy in the United States.  With a programmatic focus on the environment and sustainability; education and workforce development; arts and culture; and health and human services, the foundation creates and supports organizations that improve communities in which Bayer employees live and work, as well as society at large.  The Bayer USA Foundation is one of three Bayer corporate foundations worldwide, including the Bayer Science & Education Foundation and the Bayer Cares Foundation.

The Eden Hall Foundation is a private foundation established pursuant to the will of Sebastian Mueller, a Pittsburgh philanthropists and vice presidents and director of the H.J. Heinz Company.  The Eden Hall Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania through support of organizations whose missions address the needs and concerns of the area.