The Effect of Gender on Chief of Staff Salaries
The 2022 Compensation Report did not include a question about gender, so the 2023 Report is an opportunity to establish a baseline from which to observe changes in the effect of gender on chief of staff salaries.
Our first look at the survey responses suggested that there were differences between male and female mean (average) compensation. We therefore took a deeper dive into the data using median salaries, which is the average most commonly used when investigating gender pay gaps.
The median salary of female respondents was $145,500, while that of male respondents was $160,250, indicating a 9.2% difference. It's noteworthy to consider that our sample size was limited, with a female-to-male respondent ratio of approximately 7:4. Nonetheless, our current sample has revealed some intriguing trends.
female median salary
MALE median salary
While the median salary for a female chief of staff was less than that of a male in all sectors apart from not-for-profit, the gap was most pronounced in the private sector.

Median Salary by sector

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Analysing salaries alongside age and gender reveals a pattern familiar to other professions. Up to the age of thirty, salaries of women and men are broadly similar. After the age of thirty, they begin to diverge, with men’s salaries rising faster. This is likely to be the ‘motherhood penalty’ in action. Women’s salaries start to catch up in the forty-three to fifty age range, remain level in their fifties (while men’s increase), and then drop off sharply after the age of sixty.

Median Salary by age

how long have you been in your current chief of staff role?

If we look at salary against time in the role, however, the gender lines are more or less parallel. Plotting our data on a graph suggests that there is a point between two and three years in the role when the median salary for women is slightly higher than that of men. As an overall trend, however, women start as chief of staff on a lower salary than men do, and do not catch up.
What is particularly interesting about this pattern for chiefs of staff is that there is little room for progress within the role itself. There are some deputy chiefs of staff, but for many organisations the role is unique. The majority of our survey respondents had been in the role for up to three years only, and had been doing something else before being promoted or recruited to become chief of staff.
The pay discrepancies are therefore likely to reflect general workplace inequalities rather than being a feature of the chief of staff role. In particular, more women than men seem to come to the role via being an executive assistant. Salary rises that accompany these promotions may seem generous relative to the executive assistant salary but are unlikely to have been benchmarked against other chief of staff roles. This is why our survey is so important.