By Jeff Brumley
Women clergy make a lot less money than their male counterparts, new federal statistics show — and a lot of women ministers are finding this disturbing.
That was evident on the Baptist Women in Ministry Facebook page, where Executive Director Pam Durso recently posted a Religion News Service blog analyzing new Bureau of Labor Statistic data on gender-based differences in pay.
Among other professions, the figures show that women clergy are paid 76 cents for every dollar earned by male clergy. That’s worse than the national pay gap of 83 cents.
“Shame!!” one woman commented on the BWIM Facebook posting. She was followed by remarks such as “sad,” “shameful,” “not good at all,” “oh, no” and “wrong, wrong and wrong.”
One commenter was Becky Caswell-Speight, minster to families with children at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.
She also labeled the gender pay gap in ministry as “shameful.”
“The [wider] church is mostly at fault for this, but not only the church,” Caswell-Speight told Baptist New Global.
Part of the problem is that many women in ministry, herself included, have not negotiated for higher salaries.
“Many of us are still in that mindset of being thankful you have a position so there is no reason to negotiate [salary],” she said.
“We need to change our mindsets.”
Durso agreed, but also urged churches to look into the disparities in pay between men and women on their staffs.
She addressed that and other pay inequity issues in an interview with BNG.
What kind of response have you gotten about this data?
The interesting thing that happened after I posted that article is that I got several emails and messages … with the stories that ‘this is what happened in our church.’ There are stories about the male associate pastor with three years who makes more than the female associate pastor who has been there 10 years. It also resonates with the young women who have not really given much thought to the pay inequities …. Some of them in seminary were shocked that this is our reality.
Does the article resonate with what you hear from women clergy in moderate and progressive Baptist churches?
Yes, but with our constellation of Baptists we don’t really have hard numbers because we don’t send in those kind of reports like the more mainline churches — like the Episcopal and Methodist churches — do. There’s no accountability as far as salaries or budgets. So we don’t really have the hard facts to say this is true, but we have anecdotal evidence that this is true.
Should churches be embarrassed by these numbers?
I think churches need to be the leading voice in equity for women when it comes to pay and to having their gifts and callings put to use. We should be on the forefront — instead of on the backside — of what society is doing.
Have you heard of churches hiring women ministers as a cost-saving measure?
I have heard that. There’s some shift in that. It’s not being said out loud as much as it used to be but I think it’s still a reality. A church will assume a woman who is single doesn’t need as much money, or if she’s married, that her husband will carry the load for the family.
Do you know if the pay gap is as wide between women and men who pastor the larger churches?
I don’t know because Baptists don’t share financial information …. But a couple of things have come up in this conversation. There are not as many women serving as senior pastors, so it’s hard to compare that because a lot of the women … are associate pastors or children’s minsters. And that also reflects an inequity because women don’t have an equal opportunity to serve as senior pastors.
What can be done about this situation?
My encouragement for churches is to look at their budgets. They can see it — is there equity in payment for years of experience and position? And take some hard looks at the budget if you are on the finance committee and be honest about it. Once churches begin to realize they are underpaying women they will be called by grace to do a better job.