Head of school salary research tells a new story
Alejandra Neyra CIS Data Analyst and BI Manager
Kate Taverner headshot


Data analysis and methodology by Alejandra Neyra, blog by Kate Taverner


What salary gaps exist in international education?

Learn from our research and test your assumptions—how does gender and ethnicity impact the salary of school heads? Explore the data and think about how you can bring about positive changes in international education.

For many years, we’ve been gathering and analysing head of school salary data from our worldwide membership community of international schools. We look for trends and exclusive insights that we can share with members and the wider community to raise awareness about salary inequities.

In this post, we spotlight key findings from the 2021 Head of School Salary research and a link to our report (see end of post) for more detail.

Thank you to all of the school heads who participated in this research. If you completed the salary survey you will soon receive an email containing a second report that you can use to define competitive salaries for existing or incoming heads.


Creating fair and equitable hiring practices is a shared responsibility

We have a responsibility to raise awareness throughout the international education community about salary and benefits practices and trends so school leaders can make decisions to reduce the existing pay gaps related to gender, demographic, and contract categories.

The data we collected tells a story—and it’s one we hope will change in the future.

We’ve been collecting and analysing salary data since 2018. It started as a project to provide benchmarking information to help schools develop competitive packages for school leaders and for them to use in their own career negotiations. But the data revealed a deeper story that we want to share.



  • For a fourth consecutive year, gender, ethnicity and contract category salary gaps are evident. The ethnicity and contract category gaps are statistically significant and larger than in previous years.
  • Males and White leaders are more satisfied with their salaries and benefits when compared to females and Non-White leaders. 
  • Males and internationally hired heads negotiate their salaries either prior to accepting a job offer or while in their current roles more frequently than females and locally hired heads. 
  • Males, White, and internationally hired heads rely on their private networks and recruitment agencies for career progression more frequently than females, Non-White and locally hired heads.


Key findings

In 2020, we found that:

  • Males earn on average 8,500 USD more than females
  • White leaders earn on average 17,000 USD more than Non-White leaders
  • Internationally hired heads earn on average 33,000 USD more than locally hired heads

In 2021, we see the salary gaps are still evident and larger than in 2020.

  • Males earn on average 12,433 USD more than females. For the first year since 2018, the difference in net salary between males and females is not statistically significant. In previous years, this difference was statistically significant*.
  • White leaders earn on average 33,860 USD more than Non-White leaders. The difference is statistically significant.
  • Internationally hired heads earn on average 39,246 USD more than locally hired heads. The difference is statistically significant.

We surveyed different individuals each year, thus we cannot conclude that specific gaps increased from 2020 to 2021, but we can conclude that salary gaps are still evident in 2021.


Expanded analysis

This year, we gave additional analytical focus to how salary fairness perceptions and negotiation practices relate to the salary gaps. We also asked two questions, ‘Who do heads reach out to for advice on career progression?’ and ‘What is the biggest challenge heads have experienced in their careers?’ 

We explored:

  • whether the salary and benefits fairness perceptions of females, Non-White and locally hired heads were different than those of males, White, and internationally hired heads
  • the proportion of heads who have negotiated their salaries either before accepting a job offer or while in their current roles
  • who do heads reach out to for advice on career progression?

Here is what we discovered.


Gender gaps





Ethnicity gaps





Contract type gaps: International vs local hire




What was the biggest challenge that these different groups experienced during their careers?

We found that females and Non-White leaders were more likely to answer this question and that many heads entered ‘none’ to these open-ended questions. So, we cannot be sure whether the respondents had not experienced significant challenges or did not want to share those challenges.

The most frequent responses were Covid, racism, gender equality and work-family balance. 




Read the full report


*We use the p-value as part of our methodology to test our data. ‘A p-value, or probability value, is a number describing how likely it is that your data would have occurred by random chance.’ (Source: simplypsychology.org). When data is determined statistically significant, we can assume that what is happening in the sample reflects what is happening in the general population. When data is determined by the p-value as statistically insignificant, like this particular dataset in our report, we cannot assume that what is happening in our sample is reflected in the general population.



Related content: