CEO Pay: America's Top Women

CEO Pay: America's Top Women

When it comes to salaries, women CEOs among the Top 500 have narrowed the pay gap. But total compensation still shows some vast differences.

By James Burroughs

PINK’s study of the latest executive compensation data reveals that the 12 women CEOs among the 500 largest U.S. companies hold their own where salaries are concerned. Nine of the 12 women have salaries that equal or exceed those of male CEOs at comparable industry peers. Not surprisingly, these select women fare much better than the average woman professional, who earns 80 cents to each dollar that men earn, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among top executives, “differences in compensation have been narrowing over time,” says Linda Bell, Ph.D., provost and John B. Hurford professor of economics at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

But when total compensation, including stock and option awards, is taken into account, the top women CEOs didn’t do as well last year. Only 6 of the 12 matched or bested the men. “It’s a little easier to hide,” Bell notes.

In other ways, too, the news among this elite group of women is disappointing. During the past 18 months, women CEOs among the Top 500 saw a net standstill in their number. First, Lucent Technologies CEO Patricia Russo dropped from the list when her company merged to form Alcatel-Lucent, a French company that Russo still leads. Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft, moved onto the list when Kraft spun off from Altria Group last year. Then Angela Braly took over at WellPoint last summer — temporarily boosting the number of women CEOs to 13, until Meg Whitman retired from eBay in March.

By contrast, in the past year at least 30 men have filled CEO vacancies at Top 500 companies, compared to just one woman (Braly).

While a direct comparison of CEO salaries and total compensation in any given year can be problematic — due to variations in CEO tenure, company size and performance, and the timing of incentive packages — the data is a useful snapshot of the respect these women receive from boards enlightened enough to appoint them in the first place. The following table presents pay figures for all 12 women CEOs, in alphabetical order, and 12 male CEOs leading industry peers of comparable size.

Methodology: The Top 500 includes U.S. -incorporated companies, ranked by revenue, that file financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Company revenue figures reflect the company’s last full fiscal year. Salary and total compensation figures are those reported in the company’s most recent proxy state ment at press time. In addition to salary, total compensation includes stock awards, option awards, nonequity incentive plan compensation, change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings, and all other compensation.

CEO Pay: America's Top Women

CEO Pay: America's Top Women

This article originally appeared in the July.August 2008 issue of PINK Magazine.

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