Editorial: Still a way to go on equal pay in the sector

Emma Maier, deputy editor

If you're a young, bisexual, Asian woman with a disability (or, in fact, any of the above), don't expect equal pay for equal work in the voluntary sector. That's the stark message peering out from between the lines of Acevo's annual remuneration survey.

The research reinforces the findings of two recent Third Sector studies.

The National Trustee Survey conducted with nfpSynergy showed that 92 per cent of trustees are 'white British' and trustee boards are still dominated by older men (Third Sector, 16 August). Our poll of the chief executives of the top 50 fundraising charities found that only one is not white and only one has a disability (Third Sector, 22 March).

There are so few non-white chief executives that the Acevo researchers were unable to calculate a median salary for these groups. But the maximum salaries for each category are telling: more than £181,000 a year for white chief executives, compared with £91,000 for those who described themselves as Chinese (the next closest group) and £43,000 for Asian chief executives.

Chief executives with disabilities had median salaries £8,000 less than those without. But there is better news for gay and lesbian CEOs, whose median salary is £8,000 higher than their heterosexual colleagues. This doesn't tell the whole story, however. The median salary for bisexual chief execs trails behind and the maximum salary for both gay and lesbian and bisexual respondents was £50,000 lower than for heterosexuals.

Given the recent legislation on age discrimination, the results here are particularly pertinent. CEOs younger than 35 or older than 65 had significantly lower maximum salaries than their colleagues aged between 35 and 64 years old. The greatest variance was £119,000.

Those tempted to retort that younger chief executives should be paid less because they don't have as much experience should tread carefully.

It is now ability to do the job that counts, not age. Liberty chief executive Shami Chakrabarti is a case in point: voted winner in the chief executive category of last year's Britain's Most Admired Charities awards, the 37 year old is one of the most successful and best known voluntary sector leaders.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Three decades after the Sex Discrimination Act came in, there is almost gender equality for chief executives who work for charities with annual incomes of £250,000-£1m and £1m-£5m. Somehow, celebrations don't seem appropriate quite yet.

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