Peggy Outon speaks at Seton Hill about wage inequality

Peggy Outon speaks about the 74% Project at Seton Hill on March 7. Outon is the founding executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University. Photo by P.Parise/Setonian.

Peggy Outon, the founding executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, spoke at Seton Hill University last night in honor of Women’s History Month.

Outon, who was also named to the national Nonprofit Times Top 50 for Power and Influence, gave a presentation about the 74% Project. The project is named to represent how 74 percent of the nonprofit workforce in southwestern Pennsylvania is women. Additionally, when the Bayer Center began its research, women in nonprofits only made 74 cents for every dollar that a man made.

“I had known about issues surrounding women in the workplace and especially the pay gap from things that I had read on the internet, seen in the news and talked about in different classes, but the statistics and personal experience that Ms. Outon included in her presentation stood out to me because they were very clear and focused,” said Sam Gray, a freshman English literature major with a minor in gender and women’s studies.

In her presentation, Outon described how the Bayer Center received funding to spend time researching nonprofit wage inequality when she realized the pay gap in nonprofits exceeded the pay gap in business. Through interviews and focus groups, Outon could pinpoint how women felt about different aspects of their careers.

The Bayer Center also found through its research that average compensation in nonprofits varies depending on gender. By examining 990 forms, the Bayer Center found that a nonprofit male executive working under a male board chair makes an average of $97,000 more per year than a female executive working under a female board chair.

Shown above is one of the pamphlets that Outon handed out to all audience members before her presentation on Tuesday. The pamphlet explains what the 74% Project is about and contains statistics and various infographics based on the Bayer Center’s research. Photo by P.Parise/Setonian.

“This is not anti-male,” Outon said. “We need to all be in this together. Equity and justice will rise all boats, not only women’s boats.”

Outon also discussed how women working in nonprofits are often fearful of retirement since they will not have enough money saved. She also mentioned how 45 percent of the executives researched did not receive performance evaluations, which limits the attention given to human resource tasks.

“Learning this information really changed my perspective of how important it is to be prepared to enter the workforce and how crucial it is to educate employees and employers alike on actions they can take to change inequalities in the workplace,” Gray said.

Recently, Outon found that the amount nonprofit women make in comparison to men has risen to 81 cents for every dollar.

“It does feel to me that the trajectory is going our way,” Outon said. “We have made progress, but not as fast as anyone would wish.”

This year, SHU created a Women’s History Month Committee for the first time and invited Outon to speak. The committee consisted of Debra Mason, Edith Cook, Susan Eichenberger, Elise Michaux, Jess Mann and David Von Schlichten.

“I had a difficult biological father and I grew up watching him be horrible to my mother and sisters, so that really sensitized me to the issues,” said Von Schlichten, who is the coordinator of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at SHU. “As I continued my studies, I just continually noticed problems with gender inequality and the way women were being mistreated, and I just felt very passionate about advocating for that.”

Shown above is a quote from poet Seamus Heaney that Outon included in her PowerPoint presentation. This was one of Outon’s final slides to encourage the audience to be part of the change. Photo by P.Parise/Setonian.

“It’s good for students to be aware of these things so that we can work to fix that,” he added. “It’s [wage gap] a pretty outrageous injustice and if we have awareness of it, then we can work together to correct it.”

Women’s History Month is commemorated every March to celebrate the role of women in American history. Today is also International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8 every year.

“Women’s History Month, as I see it, provides a time to bring women’s voices and contributions to the forefront of public discussions,” Gray said. “I appreciate Women’s History Month for its role in promoting curiosity and celebration into what women have, can and will do for America and for the world.”

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