Employees at Jewish nonprofits all over the country are disseminating a spreadsheet meant to help inform workers — especially female ones — about the salaries of their peers.
The Google spreadsheet collected 210 entries in its first 12 or so hours.
“If you don’t know what people are making, you don’t know what to ask for,” said Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, co-founder of the Gender Equity In Hiring Project and one of the people behind the spreadsheet. “We’re at a time, both in our country and within the Jewish community, where we’re waking up to the persistent challenges of inequalities and, in our case, particularly gender inequality in the workforce.”
The goal is to create more transparency around salaries, and in particular, around gender equality and treatment of part-time workers. The effort has been widely praised, although some have cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the data.
Sirbu and Sara Shapiro-Plevan, the other co-founder of the Gender Equity In Hiring Project, came up with the idea last Friday, inspired by a similar spreadsheet that is circulating around the journalism world. They opened it to the public on Tuesday, November 19. Anyone can access it and anyone can add their information, but the contributors stay anonymous.
The spreadsheet contains columns like “years in field” “benefits” if applicable, and “organization budget.”
So far, Sirbu said the patterns she’s seen emerge are consistent with what research has already shown: Salaries are higher at bigger organizations and male pulpit rabbis are making the most.
“Everybody wants to support their family and everybody wants to feel valued in the work that they do, and one of the ways society tells us that we’re valued is by what we are paid,” said Sirbu.
So far, the highest-paid individual on the sheet is the head of a day school in a large Canadian city. That person is making $290,000 CAD and declined to enter their gender into the spreadsheet.
Salaries on the lower end hover around $30,000. Those positions run the gamut from community engagement specialist to religious school staff and administrators. There are also contributors who are not compensated at all: two cantatorial soloists, both of whom declined to enter their gender.
The hours for employees with rabbinical titles trend above 40 hours a week, but cantors, university administrators, directors of education and other contributors also logged more than 40 hours a week, some up to 80.
Most of the contributors who list their gender identified as female.
Sirbu said she and Shapiro-Plevin tested the spreadsheet in a Facebook group designed for Jewish women, making some tweaks to ensure people felt comfortable with the level of anonymity.
They said they are planning to keep the spreadsheet open to submissions for a few more weeks, then work with an analyst to aggregate the data and present it in a report.
The spreadsheet is born out of legitimate frustration about gender pay gaps in Jewish spaces, said Gali Cooks, president and CEO of Leading Edge, an organization that provides guidance and analysis to Jewish workplaces. She said no one should view the sheet as a “panacea,” however.
“There is a hunger to shine a light on essentially what is a black box,” she said.
Cooks said people should be careful not to oversimplify the problem of salary equity or seek a “quick fix.” Salaries are complicated — a seemingly infinite number of job titles is one impediment to conclusions on salary data. She said organizations need to do soul-searching to find their “compensation philosophies.” They should set clear boundaries for hiring and salary so less is left up to negotiation, where men tend to win more money.
Sirbu said the Jewish community has a particular responsibility to pay its workers enough to support their families, because Jewish institutions say families are so important. Fair salaries in the Jewish community are also an important step for equity more broadly, according to Sirbu. The Gender Equity In Hiring Project was born out of the #MeToo movement two years ago.
“We decided to focus on gender equity as our slice of this, because if we don’t fight for equity we’re also never going to solve the problems of harassment and abuse,” she said.
Research from Leading Edge Has found while the majority of the Jewish workforce is made up of women, 70 percent of CEOs are men.
The organization also found that, just like in other sectors, Jewish organizations pay men more than they pay women.
Shapiro-Plevan said the feedback to the spreadsheet has been mostly positive, though she has gotten two critical emails: one from a man employed in a heavily female sector who makes significantly more than female colleagues, and one from a woman working at a foundation that controls a large sum of money.
Their respective concerns were that the spreadsheet could make non-profits vulnerable to criticism and that there should not be a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating salaries.
It might be hard at this early stage for people to understand how more information will benefit the larger community, Shapiro-Plevan said.
“We’ve relied so heavily on a sort of generalized opaqueness when we talk about salary,” she said.
Shapiro-Plevan said she is looking forward to seeing the long-term results of the spreadsheet’s availability— both for job seekers and for hiring organizations.
“What does this do to Jewish organizations when they recognize that people hold this data and may be aware in their negotiations?” she said.
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