Female CEOs Make More Than Men (With A Catch)

As we recently wrote about, CEO pay reached record levels in 2018. This is the fourth consecutive year with pay reaching a new high for CEOs at the country’s largest companies. And this was regardless of stock-market results. The median pay for S&P 500 CEOs was $12.4 million. You might be surprised to learn that on this list, female CEOs make more than men, with median pay of $13.7 millon.

While this can be seen as a positive data point, there’s a catch. There were only 20 women on the S&P 500 list, just 4% of the list. This year, that number is up to 26 women with three more set to take the reins in the next few months, pushing the number to 5.8% of the list. 

In looking at the list of S&P 500 female CEOs, the five leading earners are as follows: 

  • Mary Barra – General Motors – $21.9 million
  • Marilyn Hewson – Lockheed Martin – $21.5 million
  • Phebe Novakovic – General Dynamics – $20.7 million
  • Ginny Rometty – IBM – $17.5 million
  • Adna Friedman – NASDAQ – $14.4 million

Two of the more well known female CEOs over the past decade, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard, are missing from the list. Ms. Nooyi left her post in October and joined Amazon’s board of directors. She is the fifth female on the 11 person board. Ms. Whitman left her CEO position with Hewlett Packard in February, but stayed on the board of directors for the duration of her term.

As the economy is moving towards technology across all industries, there are studies looking at why we aren’t seeing more females pursue STEM careers. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show women holding 26% computer and math jobs, 21% of computer programming jobs, and 16% of architecture and engineering jobs. More than one study sees the root of the problem in our education system. 

According to the Los Angeles Times article, “Previous research has focused on gender discrimination of women in scientific fields and how societal norms influence girls’ career aspirations. The new study is different because it focuses on the strengths of individual students from all over the world.”

The study shows that girls are good at math, but they are even better at reading. Sociologist Catherine Riegle-Crum of the University of Texas at Austin notes that girls might prefer to focus on humanities courses since careers in those fields are historically more welcoming to females. “Why would I pick the one where I’m going to have to struggle to fit in and be exposed to all kinds of bias and stereotypes versus the one that’s going to be welcoming?” she said.

The Cornell study highlights class size and its impact on female participation in STEM classes. According to the two year study across 44 STEM courses with 5,300 instructor-student interactions at a variety of universities, once a class size exceeds 120 students, women tend to participate less.

“We show that class size has the largest impact on female participation, with smaller classes leading to more equitable participation. We also found that women are most likely to participate after small-group discussions when instructors use diverse teaching strategies,” said lead author Cissy Ballen, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and now an assistant professor at Auburn University. “We hope these results encourage instructors to be proactive in their classrooms with respect to these inequities.”

While there is no simple answer to the question of why more women aren’t represented in the C-suite, understanding the root of the problem can help provide the right path for talented, driven women to pursue their passion and become the female leaders of tomorrow. After all, the numbers bear it out, female CEOs make more than male CEOs.

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