Practical ways for schools to use the 2023 head of school salary research findings
Practical ways for schools to use the 2023 head of school salary research findings
Practical ways for schools to use the 2023 head of school salary research findings

Gaps persist related to gender, ethnicity, and contract type. Learn what the 2023 data shows about the salaries and benefits of 373 heads of school in 106 different countries and what you can do about it.


A portrait photo of Jane Larsson Executive Director at CIS 2022

What does the data from your school show and what can you do in your role to put this research to effective use to advance equity?'

Jane Larsson, CIS Executive Director



Identifying and addressing these gaps is crucial for schools committed to equity and excellence. By comparing remuneration related to gender, ethnicity, and contract type, schools can ensure fairness in full consideration of the diverse challenges and responsibilities of all leaders.

Acknowledging these gaps is not just about fairness; it's about attracting and retaining top talent in an increasingly competitive educational landscape.

Schools that proactively address these disparities demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and social justice, modeling a culture of trust and respect. This approach not only enriches the school's community it also sets a powerful example for students, embodying the values of equity amidst diversity that we strive to teach.

In our latest survey, we invited participants from CIS member schools and from the Association of American International Schools in the Americas (AMISA), British Schools in the Middle East (BSME), the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS).

We explored whether the perceptions of fairness on the salaries and benefits of women, Non-White and locally hired school heads differed from those of men, White, and internationally hired school heads. We also wanted to learn more about the proportion of school heads who have negotiated their salaries either before accepting a job offer or while in their current roles. And, we asked where they seek advice on career progression.

Key findings

  1. Education & salary: There’s a strong positive correlation between higher education levels and average net salaries. Notably, 68% of survey respondents possess a master's or professional degree​​.
  2. Leadership experience: 51% of school heads have over 16 years of experience​​.
  3. Tenure as head of their current school: A majority (80%) of the respondents have been heads of their current schools for less than seven years​​.
  4. School size: Larger school enrolment numbers are significantly correlated with higher average net salaries.
  5. Perceptions of salary fairness: Most school heads (71%) believe their salary is fair for the expertise they provide, and an even higher percentage (80%) view their benefits as fair​​.
  6. Career advancement advice: While school heads predominantly rely on both professional and private networks for career progression advice, locally hired heads rely more on their professional and personal networks, and internationally hired heads rely more on trusted advisors/mentors and recruiters.
2023 CIS Head of School Salary Survey highlights


Gender, contract & ethnicity gaps

  1. Gender salary gap: Men earn, on average, US $25,437 more than women. This gap exists despite similar education levels and leadership experience between genders. Notably, women with a doctorate tend to earn more than men with the same level of education​​.
  2. Leadership experience by gender: Women are more likely to have between 0-15 years of leadership experience, while men tend to have over 16 years of experience​​.
  3. School enrolment & gender: Women leading schools with similar enrolment numbers are paid less than their male counterparts​​.
  4. Ethnicity: Both Non-White and White leaders who answered the survey have similar education levels and White leaders on average earn US $45,387 more than Non-White leaders with similar leadership experience.
  5. Contract category differences: On average, internationally hired heads are paid 43,777 USD more than locally hired heads with similar leadership experience and all education levels.


2023 CIS Head of School Salary Survey highlights: Gender


2023 CIS Head of School Salary Survey: Ethnicity Gap


2023 CIS Head of School Salary Survey: Contract Category Gap


Implications for school boards & practical ways to use the research

These findings underscore the complexity of factors influencing head of school salaries and highlights areas where school leadership teams can focus to promote equity and fairness.

Here are some ways that schools can use this research to foster more inclusive recruitment and hiring practices that ultimately can lead to a more diverse and equitable educational leadership landscape.

Implement transparent salary structures: One of the key findings is the correlation between education level, years of experience, and salary. Consider establishing clear, transparent salary structures that outline how these factors influence compensation. This transparency ensures all candidates understand how their qualifications and experience will be valued, reducing the risk of bias or assumptions affecting salary decisions.

Scrutinise the gaps: Look in detail at your current salary scales for gender, ethnicity, and contract biases so you can make adjustments that ensure equal pay for equal qualifications and experience. This includes not only addressing disparities in base salaries but also in benefits and bonuses. Ensuring parity in remuneration is a critical step towards a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

Focus on diverse leadership experience: With the finding that a higher percentage of women heads of school have fewer years of leadership experience compared to men, schools should consider diversifying their criteria for leadership roles. Instead of solely focusing on the number of years in leadership, schools can value different types of leadership experiences and skills, which may attract a more diverse pool of candidates. Schools can focus on competencies needed for different leadership roles.

Revise recruitment policies for internationally vs locally hired heads: Reassess your hiring policies to ensure there isn’t a disparity due to systemic or unconscious biases. This might involve re-evaluating the perks and remuneration offered to internationally hired heads and ensuring that local hires are given equal opportunities for advancement and competitive pay.

Enhance support for career progression: The reliance on professional networks for career advice suggests the importance of fostering strong professional communities and mentorship programmes. Schools can play a more active role in facilitating these networks, especially for underrepresented groups. Creating mentorship programmes, hosting networking events, or encouraging professional development can help cultivate a more diverse leadership pipeline. This approach not only supports individual career growth but also contributes to a more inclusive school leadership community.

Read the full report: Read online | Download (pdf)

Members can access this and other research via the CIS Community portal > School Leadership > Research.



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Practical ways for schools to use the 2023 head of school salary research findings
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Practical ways for schools to use the 2023 head of school salary research findings