Women in the C-Suite: Some Good News, Bad News

Spurred by the successes of women in shattering the glass ceiling to the corner office, the issue of how females are treated as business leaders continues to spawn fascinating new insights that CEOs and company owners – as well as their charges – can use to guide their decisions and their careers. The latest of these is a new study on female CEO pay.

One new finding is that, in early first-quarter reporting by public companies of executive compensation, female CEOs actually were being compensated at average levels far higher than their male counterparts.

At the end of April, 21 of 22 current female CEOs in the Standard & Poor’s 500 had reported their latest compensation, and they were paid an average of $18.8 million during their latest fiscal years, according to an analysis by USA Today. That far exceeded the average $12.7 million paid to the 455 current male CEOs in the S&P 500 that had reported for the same time period, the newspaper found.

“Some companies are good at reinvesting in employees, but it’s about helping them become better employees.”

“Women have a long way to go to match or even rival men in the CEO office in terms of numbers, but they’ve made strong strides in size of pay,” the publication said. “It’s been a great year financially for CEOs. And that’s especially true for the females who have risen to the top of the corporate ladder.”

However, the bounty being enjoyed by the largest-company female CEOs may have a dark flip side, another study found: It “may signal that there is no room for any others,” as the Wall Street Journal put it.

A woman’s chances of landing one of a company’s five highest-paid executive jobs drops 51 percent if there’s already a woman on the team, according to research by the business schools at the University of Maryland and Columbia University. The hypothesis is that companies may have implicit quotas in place on moving females to the C-suite, driven by unconscious biases.

“It might very well be the case that male top managers just want to check a box; there is no more effort, no more mentoring,” Cristian Denzo, an associate professor at Maryland, told the Journal. “They are one and done.”

These findings underscore the fact that, while women ascending to the top of the corporate pyramid has become commonplace, the trend is creating some new eddies in the continued evolution of American corporate governance.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events