The Green Corporate Ladder and Closing the Salary Gap: Four Tips for Women’s 2010 CSR salary survey report came out this week.    As reported by, some of the interesting trends detailed in the GreenBiz Salary report include:

Compensation is strong: Sustainability executives are compensated at salaries comparable to those of their peers at larger companies. Vice presidents of sustainability earn an average of $192,064, whereas directors of sustainability earn an average of $160,320 and sustainability managers earn an average of $103,197.

Execs are smart: Sustainability executives tend to be well educated, as 65 percent of vice presidents, 57 percent of directors and 58 percent of managers have master’s degrees. Managers with master’s degrees earned almost twenty percent more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

But two other key trends were apparent to me after reviewing the report:

Men dominate the field, especially at the VP level: Men dominate at the highest levels of sustainability inside companies, with men making more than two-thirds of the VP roles in large corporations.  The good news is that at this level, women earn almost the same as men, with the salary difference less than $1,000.  Men earn an average of $190,909, while women earn an average of $190,000.

At the manager level, women are earning 11.5% less than men:  Men dominate at the managerial levels of sustainability making up 61% of managers. At this level, there is a significant pay gap, with men earning 11.5% more than women.

Advice for Women:  Four Actions to Consider

Below are four ideas for how we can get rid of this gap and create more gender balance in the sustainability field.  Please chime in and add your own thoughts.

1.  Join the broader group of women addressing gender equality in the workplace Reach out to join the broader group of women who are addressing gender equality in the workplace, such as local and national women’s organizations.  Another idea is to join or begin a women’s networking group at your company.  Join in with others to help move  this issue forward.

2.  Ask for more Especially at the initial salary negotiation stage, stand behind your experience and skills and ask for what you are worth.  The survey report is a great source of information to help support your next salary negotiations.  Even though the economy is shaky, companies still expect you to negotiate.

Check out what my favorite leadership development consultant has to say about personal power.  He defines it as, “Your personal power is the sum total of your knowledge, skills, gifts, talents, aptitudes, character qualities, resourcefulness, creativity and experiences. When supported by commitment, engagement and readiness, a human being is said to be sufficient, in their power.  Personal power is a potent force. And, it is not a project, not something that we work up to or earn over time. Rather, it is something that we claim.”

3.  Ask your company to adopt the UN Global Compact Women’s Empowerment Principles Cecily Joseph, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec shared that, “at Symantec we see a diverse and inclusive workforce as one that fosters innovation.  Gender equity is key. One thing companies can do and CSR can help to drive is the adoption of the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Symantec adopted these principles earlier this year because they offer us a road map to gender equality.”

The principles are created for the business community and offer a set of guidelines on how to empower women in the workplace.  Equal  pay is specifically addressed.  Overall, the principles ask for companies to set goals and targets and to be more transparent in this area.

CSR departments should play a leading role in having their companies adopt these principles so that the issue of gender equality is examined more broadly across the organization,” said Joseph.

4.  Gain technical expertise Engineers and those with technical backgrounds are earning more than the “softer” fields such as marketing and communications

5.  Add your suggestion here I would love to hear your ideas.  Please chime in below.


Deborah Fleischer is President of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies create authentic communication strategies that educate, engage and inspire both employees and external stakeholders.  Check out our new green team tool, Corp Green.

Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic sustainability consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. She helps companies design and launch new green strategies and programs, as well as communicate about successes. She is a GRI-certified sustainability reporter and LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications.Deborah has helped to design and implement numerous successful cross-sector partnerships and new green initiatives, including the California Environmental Dialogue, Curb Your Carbon and the Institute at the Golden Gate.She has helped create lasting alliances among such organizations as Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy with companies such as Disney, Arco, Bank of America and Passport Resorts.You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact or contact her directly at

5 responses

  1. I am happy to see that women have a chance to be on the same corporate playing field as men. At least in a more progressive arena as Green Business- we really need to empower ourselves and start asking for more.

  2. What is it about “sustainability” that changes these numbers from how they are in the broader workforce at this level? Is the green corporate ladder that different than other corporate ladders? CSR is going to keep getting more important to business, it would seem that women would have an advantage here, but are probably being held back for all the old reasons.

    1. CSR isn’t just about the environment, it’s about social and human issues as well. I hold CSR communities to a higher standard in terms of awareness about equality in the workplace. But, it seems you’re right, women are being held back for the same old institutional reasons, despite the new paradigm. It’s very disappointing to me.

  3. No surprise here but really important information nonetheless. The writer provides some useful ideas in trying to combat a very old problem in a relatively new field.


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