American Conference of Cantors Resolves to Remedy Gender Pay Gap
(Schaumburg, IL) January 31, 2017—The American Conference of Cantors (ACC) issued a resolution today supporting equal pay for equal work for Reform cantors.
Despite President John F. Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act back in 1963, today women earn on average 80 cents for every dollar a man makes and for women of color that gap is even greater.
While the pay gap for Reform clergy is still narrower than the national gender pay gap, inequity still exists.
In its landmark study released in 2012, the CCAR found a salary gap in the Reform rabbinate including that female rabbis earned less than their male counterparts as senior and solo rabbis.
For Reform cantors a gender-based inequity continues, a hard pill to swallow particularly for the ACC whose membership is 65% female. According to the 2016 salary survey conducted by the ACC, a full-time female cantor will earn only 86% of her male counterpart’s salary in 2016-2017, which represents only a slight narrowing of the pay gap that was last reported in 2012-2013.
“There is simply no excuse in 2017 for not paying our female cantors and rabbis the same as their male counterparts for equal work,” said ACC President Cantor Steven Weiss. “For the Reform movement, which was built upon a deep-rooted commitment to justice, egalitarianism and inclusivity, to be guilty of inequity in any form, particularly against our female counterparts serving as spiritual leaders in our community, this is tantamount to a transgression of the highest order.”
ACC Statement and Resolution on Addressing the Gender Pay Gap
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act mandating equal pay for men and women for equal work.
Yet, over half a century later, we still have not reached equality. Today, women earn on average 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and for women of color that gap is even greater.
And what of women clergy? Soon after Sally Priesand made headlines in 1972 for being the first woman ordained as a Reform rabbi in America, Barbara Ostfeld paved the way for other Reform female cantors with her ordination in 1975.
But while women make up 65% of membership of the American Conference of Cantors (ACC), the professional organization serving Reform cantors across North America, they still face pay discrimination.
According to the 2016 salary survey conducted by the ACC, a full-time female cantor will earn 86.5% of her male counterpart’s salary in 2016-2017, a narrower gap than what was reported in 2012-2013 (83.8%).
While the pay gap for Reform clergy is still narrower than the national gender pay gap, we’re nonetheless only inching towards progress.
And for the Reform movement, which was built upon a deep-rooted commitment to justice, egalitarianism and inclusivity, to be guilty of discrimination in any form, particularly against our female counterparts serving as spiritual leaders in our community, this is tantamount to a transgression of the highest order.
Certainly, this is part of a systemic problem whose causes are varied and nuanced. And such discrimination is not limited to Jewish clergy but extends to clergy across the board, beyond just a gap in pay. A Duke University Study published in 2015 found that female spiritual leaders face a “stained glass ceiling,” with only 11 percent of congregations, including synagogues, being led by women – and essentially no overall increase in the number of congregations led by women since 1998.
But just because the problem exists does not mean it is acceptable. There is simply no excuse in 2017 for not paying our female cantors and rabbis the same as their male counterparts for equal work. None.
Just as we speak out against injustice at home and abroad for everything from civil rights violations to gross inequality, so, too, must the gender pay gap be forefront on our personal and movement-wise agenda.
It is up to us as Jewish professionals and lay people to first acknowledge the problem, to advocate ways to correct it, and to lay down the groundwork so that when the time comes to pay our clergy, we do so fairly, justly and equally. Only then can we be proud to hold the mantle of Reform Jews and only then can we rest assured that we are doing our part to make our world fair and just for all.
THEREFORE, understanding that ACC cantors of all gender identities or expressions deserve fair and equitable compensation, the Executive Board of the American Conference of Cantors Resolves:
- To work with congregations to ensure that pay for female cantors is in line with national norms for gender pay equity.
- To expect synagogue leadership of URJ congregations to enact fair and equitable compensation policies for clergy and staff regardless of gender identity.
- To plan and implement programs to empower ACC cantors with tools to address gender based pay inequity and to provide additional training in the area of contract negotiations.
- To work with our partners within the URJ to address issues of pay equity on a movement wide basis.
The American Conference of Cantors is the professional organization serving over 500 certified and ordained Reform cantors throughout North America. The ACC maintains rigorous standards for ordination/certification, offers deep support for the professional needs of cantors, advocates with passion for the evolving role of the cantorial vocation, and cultivates ever-increasing professional excellence among its members. For more information, please visit: http://www.accantors.org.