The Highest-Paid Female CEOs Still Make Millions Less Than Their Male Counterparts


Among the 200 best-paid chief executives in the country, just 11 are women, according to a data analysis conducted for the New York Times. That figure means women make up just 5.5 percent of the highest paid CEOs. And to make matters worse, they appear to earn less.

Overall, women make up just 48 of the chief executives at the country’s 1,000 largest companies, or 4.8 percent. They are less than 15 percent of executive officers at Fortune 500 companies, a figure that hasn’t budged in four years. Median pay for the 11 female CEOs on the list is $1.6 million less than median pay for the men or even for the entire group.

The data comes from executive compensation firm Equilar, which looked at companies with market values of $1 billion or more. As the New York Times’s Claire Cain Miller notes, “There are too few women in the Equilar study to make anything of that difference in pay or to come to any definitive conclusions about gender and pay at the C.E.O. level.”

But the finding follows a pattern. Last year a Bloomberg News analysis of the highest paid executives at S&P; 500 companies found that the women on the list made 18 percent less than male counterparts. And it wasn’t just their small numbers, ether: 8 percent of the top five compensated executives were women, but they also made less compared to others in their industries. Campell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, for example, made 24 percent less than the average for CEOs in the food industry. Pharmaceutical company Mylan CEO Heather Bresch made 33 percent less than the average in her sector. Another study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that female CEOs made less than 80 percent of what male ones earned in 2013.

There are even gaps within companies. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was the second best paid woman in the New York Times’s analysis, earning $24.9 million, much of it in stock and options. But while she earned $62 million in 2012 and 2013, that was still less than the $96 million the company paid to a man who worked under her, Chief Operating Officer Henrique de Castro, who was fired in January. The former highest-ranking female executive at Anheuser-Busch sued the company for underpaying her millions because of her gender — she made $1 million as vice president of communications and consumer affairs, while the previous man made $4.5 million when he left — but she lost the case.

Meanwhile, the new female CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, doesn’t make the Times’s list this year because her pay won’t be high enough. While her long-term compensation is $10 million, which the company says puts her total package 60 percent higher than the man who preceded her in that role, this year she will make half of what he made and less than he will be paid to be a senior advisor after vacating the position.

Female executives have to deal with other barriers beyond pay gaps. They are more likely to be promoted into support positions such as communications or human resources instead of those with more influence. (For example, none of Amazon’s female executives reports directly to the CEO.) And if they do make it all the way to the top role, they are more likely to be fired.