The salary differential between men and women looks more like a chasm than a gap.

By Regina McGee

We surveyed three primary job responsibilities in association management: Executive management (titles such as CEO, president, executive director), convention management (director or manager of meetings/conventions), and exhibit sales/management (director or manager of trade shows/exhibits). Our sample included only national associations, about equally divided between trade and professional. (See chart opposite.)

Twenty-six percent of respondents were men, and most held executive management positions. Most of the women (53 percent) were in convention management. Tellingly, 21 percent of the male respondents were 60 years or older, compared with 5 percent of females in this category. Thirty percent of the female respondents were 25 to 34 years old, compared with 11 percent of males in this age group. Extrapolating from our sample, there seem to be a lot of older men at the top and a lot of young women at the bottom in association management.

Looking specifically at salaries by title and gender, the mean salary for women in executive management was $75,129, that's $24,198 lower than the mean of $99,327 for men in this position. That considerable chasm is no less apparent in convention management, where the mean for men is $69,003 versus $47,887 for women — a difference of $21,116. We did not have enough of a base of respondents to gather a mean for the men in exhibit sales/management, but the mean for women was $45,109.

Roughly the same percentage of men and women received a bonus/incentive in the last 12 months. The mean for all respondents was $4,792. The mean for all men was $9,116 compared to $3,311 for women, again reflective of the greater number of men in executive management.

Interestingly, salary levels for both sexes were relatively comparable in both executive and convention management job categories up to $70,000, after which a significantly larger percentage of males earn more. Years in the field, age, and years at present job would not seem to be factors in this discrepancy. Annual meeting budget appears to be a factor. Among all females, the mean total budget allocated for meetings was $827,937, while the mean for all male respondents was $1,049,271.

As far as education goes, 30 percent of all males had master's degrees compared to 13 percent of all females. This probably reflects the higher number of males in executive management.

Women overall were responsible on average for 13 meetings a year as compared to 12 for men. Regarding hours a week worked, men on average put in 48 hours a week versus 44.5 for women. Executive management put in 49 hours a week compared to 44 for convention management. (The greater hours worked by men, could reflect that a greater number that are in executive management.)

Convention management or exhibit sales management were not, for the overwhelming majority of those respondents leading associations, a path to executive management. Only 12.5 percent of the women in executive management and 5 percent of the men came to their jobs from convention management background.