First, a big thank-you to all readers who participated in our 2005 salary survey, conducted earlier this year via an online questionnaire. We know readers are constantly bombarded with requests, and we appreciate the time and attention many of you gave in responding to this important industry survey. You will find these results useful in benchmarking your earnings.

We surveyed two types of readers: those whose job function is primarily executive management (with such titles as CEO, president, and executive director), and those whose primary job function is meeting/convention management (with titles such as director or vice president of conventions).

We surveyed only U.S. associations with national/international memberships and did not include regional or state organizations. Our sample was composed of a nearly equal mix of trade and professional associations, plus a small percentage of SMERF-type organizations. (See table 1, opposite.)

We then compared our 2005 findings with the results of our 2003 salary survey. (No survey was conducted in 2004.) Some key findings this year:

  • Executive management salaries increased 5.7 percent, growing from a mean (or average) of $85,884 in 2003 to $90,759 in 2005.

  • Convention management salaries grew from an average of $50,793 in 2003 to $53,171 in 2005.

  • Total compensation (including bonuses) bumped executive management salaries from a mean of $89,928 in 2003 to $97,125 in 2005.

  • Total compensation for convention management inched up from a mean of $52,213 in 2003 to $53,778.

  • The average bonus/incentive for executive management slipped in 2005 to $5,150, compared to $7,923 in 2003.

  • The average bonus/incentive for convention management slipped from $2,600 in 2003 to $2,000 in 2005.

  • The average age of those in convention management was 42, and 53 for those in executive management.


We found a significant gender wage gap in the 2003 survey, and in a cover story feature we explored many variables behind the male/female wage gap within our industry as well as others. (See “Breaking Through Is Hard to Do,” page 16, August 2003.)

Looking at the findings of the 2005 salary survey, the wage gap between men and women appears to have grown. While average salary for males in executive management grew from $99,327 in 2003 to $109,042 in 2005, the average salary for females in this job category slipped from $75,129 in 2003 to $71,561 in 2005. Our female executive management respondents this year not only earned an average $37,481 less than their male colleagues, they earned $3,564 less than the average for women in this category in 2003.

A note about the sample: Significantly more women than men responded to our survey. (See Table 1). Moreover, most of the male respondents were in executive management, whereas most of the female respondents were in convention management (as was the case in the 2003 survey). It should be noted, however, that the 2005 sample represented a nearly equal number of males and females in executive management, which makes the basis of comparison all the more statistically sound.

In the convention management category, the average salary for females grew from $47,887 in 2003 to $52,343 in 2005. The average salary for males in convention management in our 2003 survey was $69,003. The 2005 survey sample did not include enough males in the convention management category to arrive at a statistically valid mean, which requires at least 30 respondents in a category. One possible inference: The number of men in convention management is declining. Whatever the case, the average 2005 salary for females in convention management is $16,660 less than the 2003 average salary for males in this job category.

In this survey, we identified the demographics of the overall sample by gender (Table 1). We found, for example, that the average age of males was six years older than for females, and that more males had a master's degree than did females. However, we could not break down the demographic characteristics of the sample by job category/gender. So we can't compare, for example, the average age of men versus women in executive management, the years-in-current-position of women versus men in convention management, and other such comparisons. Our next salary survey will include this vital data.


As did our 2003 survey, this year's salary survey asked respondents what they thought of the statement: “Men and women in executive management are equally compensated.” (See Table 7.) Of women respondents, 63 percent said they strongly disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the statement. This compares with 32 percent of men who said they strongly disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the statement.

Regarding the statement: “Men and women in convention management are equally compensated,” 54 percent of female respondents strongly disagreed/somewhat disagreed versus 29 percent of the males who felt the same way. Clearly the majority of women respondents in both categories did not feel that women were equally compensated, while most of the males disagreed.

We also asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “Men are more interested in reaching executive-level positions than women.” Sixty-six percent of women strongly disagreed/somewhat disagreed with the statement, while 43 percent of the males felt the same. Twenty-four percent of the males (the largest single response category) had no opinion of the statement.

“Women are afforded the same leadership opportunities as men.” Of the female respondents, 60 percent strongly disagreed/somewhat disagreed, compared to 32 percent of the males, who felt the same way. The largest single response category for males: 28 percent somewhat agreed with the statement.

There was one area where we found men and women generally in agreement. We asked respondents whether they thought that the leadership styles of men and women differed significantly. The majority of men (55 percent) and women (58 percent) agreed. Interestingly, 17 percent of women said “no,” while only 10 percent of the men replied the same.


Our survey contained a lot of “granular” data with regard to the demographics and characteristics of the entire sample. Here are a few examples:

  • The biggest chunk of respondents (34 percent) reside in the South Atlantic states (D.C., Del., Fla., Ga., Md., N.C., S.C., Va., W.Va.). The second-biggest percentage (18 percent) live in the East North Central region (Ill., Ind., Mich., Ohio, Wis.).

  • The average time that respondents worked for their present organization was 10 years for male respondents and nine years for female respondents.

  • The majority of males and females in executive management said they had not been promoted to their present position from within the organization. Most had come from outside the association-management field.

  • The average total annual budget for meetings/trade shows was $1,150,00 for professional groups and $716,800 for trade associations.

Females Males
Gender 74% 26%
Age* 45 51
Executive Management 26% 73%
Convention Management 51% 16%
Years in Field* 12 15
Master's Degree 10% 20%
Bachelor's Degree 52% 54%
Professional Association 45% 31%
Trade Association 37% 43%
Other Affiliation** 16% 16%
*These are averages (mean response).
**“Other” category included SMERF-type groups and association management companies. A small percentage of of both males and females did not indicate affiliation. All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole.

TABLES 2, 3, & 4:

TABLE 2: Salary by Position / Gender / Year*
Executive Management Convention Management
2003 2005 2003 2005
Males $99,327 $109,042 $69,003 N/A**
Females $74,125 $71,561 $47,887 $53,343
Mean $85,884 $90,759 $50,793 $53,171
* All salaries are averages (mean responses); 2003 figures are from AM's 2003 Salary Survey.
**Too few respondents for a statistical mean.

TABLE 3: Salary by Type of Association / Gender / Year
Professional Trade
Males $79,179 $92,296 $99,943 $103,750
Females $57,427 $117,998 $54,875 $55,077
Mean $62,461 $112,862 $67,873 $67,914
***There was a big gap between the mean and the median (middle) for this category, reflective of the wide range of responses. In such cases, the median, in this case $55,000, is a more reflective of the sample.

TABLE 4: Total Compensation 2005****
Executive Management Convention Management
Mean $89,928 $97,125 $52,213 $53,778
****Includes bonuses and commissions, as well as base salary.
Note: Mean number of employees supervised by executive management was 8; convention management was 1.

TABLES 5 & 6:

TABLE 5: Average Annual Budget for Meetings/Trade Shows
Professional Association $1,150,00
Trade Association $716,800
Males $1,372,366
Females $777,682

TABLE 6: Average Number of Meetings Planned Annually*
Professional Association 14
Trade 10
Males 74
Females 207
*Table 6 figures reflect the total number of meetings respondents are involved in planning annually. The disparity between percentage of meetings planned by males and females reflects the disproportionate number of females in convention management and males in executive management in our sample.

TABLES 7 & 8:

TABLE 7: “Men and women in executive management are equally compensated.”
Males Females
Strongly disagree 8% 24%
Somewhat disagree 24% 39%
No opinion 23% 12%
Somewhat agree 19% 8%
Strongly agree 8% 1%
No answer 18% 16%

TABLE 8: ”Men and women in convention management are equally compensated.”
Males Females
Strongly disagree 7% 18%
Somewhat disagree 22% 36%
No opinion 28% 18%
Somewhat agree 19% 10%
Strongly agree 7% 1%
No answer 18% 16%

Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number and may not total 100%.


An e-mail invitation was sent in March 2005 to Association Meetings' readers to participate in an online salary survey.

The invitation was sent to readers selected on an nth basis from the following categories: job title (executive management and convention management) and business type (professional and trade associations).

We received 281 completed surveys, which represents an 8.2 percent effective response rate for this survey.

To purchase a copy of the 2005 salary survey, which includes more than 70 pages of data tables and write-in responses, visit our Web site,, and click on “Research Store,” which appears on the bottom left of the page under “Resources.”