Female CEOs Are Making More Than Their Male Counterparts

Duke Energy South Carolina President Catherine Heigel (2nd L) participates in a Women's CEO panel - Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Duke Energy South Carolina President Catherine Heigel (2nd L) participates in a Women’s CEO panel – Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

May the gender gap be damned — at least at the top end of the earnings scale. Female CEOs, having undoubtedly worked very hard to attain the top posts in their respective companies, are pretty much killing it. Not only are the companies they lead beating the stock market in the returns they provide, but female CEOs are starting to see the returns come back to them personally in the form of higher paychecks.

All told, female CEOs of some of the world’s biggest companies are far out-earning their male counterparts, with USA Today reporting that 21 of the 22 female CEOs leading S&P 500 businesses earn an average of $18.8 million annually. For male CEOs — and there’s a lot of them — the average is a mere $12.7 million. That means that these women are not only bucking the gender gap trend, but they’re smashing it by roughly $6 million per year.

USA Today’s research cites pay information from Towers Watson and Equilar, and the calculations were made using SEC guidelines that take into account the present values of stocks along with salary information. Leading the list of highly paid female CEOs were Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer at $42.1 million, Oracle’s Safra Catz at $37.7 million, and the $33.7 million earned by Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson.

Overall, Mayer is the seventh-highest paid CEO among the S&P 500. She still has a ways to go before getting anywhere near the zenith of the CEO pay scale, as there are a small handful of chief executives pulling in annual paychecks in excess of $100 million.

While it is a bit of a letdown to see that there were only a couple dozen female CEOs leading S&P 500 companies, the fact that they’re out-earning men at the top has to be a good sign, especially for wage equality advocates.

As mentioned previously, not only are these women pulling in bigger paychecks than male CEOs on average, but the companies they are leading are also performing better. According to data from Fortune, though 7% of the Fortune 1000 are led by female executives, those companies supply 7% of the Fortune 1000’s total revenue. The heaviest hitter is General Motors, which is currently under the wing of CEO Mary Barra.

As for beating the stock market, Fortune’s data shows that the average return during a female CEO’s tenure is 103.4% — whereas the rest of the field returns only 69.5%.

While those numbers are impressive, we need to keep in mind that there may be a bit of skewing going on because the subset of women serving as CEOs is so small. Again, we’re talking about a couple dozen companies among the top 500 with women at the helm, and literally hundreds with men. It’s definitely possible that the small sample size, compared to an exponentially larger sample for male-led companies, is giving us a shaky view.

That’s not to take away from the strides and accomplishments of CEOs like Barra or Mayer, but we may need to wait until more companies are being led by women until we can get a more accurate view of how the gender pay gap translates at the executive level. Luckily, we may not have to wait long, as there are a growing number of companies handing over the keys to female chief executives. Per Fortune’s numbers, in 2000 there were less than five, for example.

But still, while the findings from USA Today are definitely promising, and show that some progress is being made in terms of gender equality in both rank and pay in America’s biggest companies, the fact that we’re comparing a very small sample of CEOs against a much bigger one can’t be overlooked.

USA Today’s findings can be substantiated by evidence that wages within certain occupations have been found to be similar as well. If that’s true, then part of the reason for the overarching gender pay gap we see may rest on two big factors — career choice and family responsibilities, as Payscale explains. But as for those at the top who are serving as chief executives, things are looking bright.

If companies keep promoting or hiring women to serve as CEO, as we have every reason to suspect they will, we’ll have even more data to dig through in coming years.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

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