Rank of female CEO decreased in 2020; Average salary fell 2%

Most of the women running the largest US companies saw their salaries increase last year, even as the pandemic hit the economy and many of their businesses.

Most of the women running the largest US companies saw their salaries increase last year, even as the pandemic hit the economy and many of their businesses.

Despite those gains, however, the average salary for female CEOs actually fell in 2020. Already a small group, they saw many high-profile women leave their ranks in the last year. This means that changes in salaries for only a few helped skew the overall figures, highlighting how slow diversity is in corporate America’s corner offices.

Only 16 of the 342 CEOs in AP & Equilar’s compensation survey of S&P 500 companies were women. That’s down from 20 a year ago, since CEOs like IBM’s Virginia Rometty stepped down. The survey includes only CEOs who have served at least two full fiscal years in their companies to avoid distortions of large sign-on bonuses. Companies must have filed a proxy statement between January 1 and April 30.

Most female CEOs in this year’s survey saw an increase in compensation: 81% of them (13 out of 16), versus 60% of all male CEOs in the survey. But Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good saw a nearly 3% drop in compensation to $ 14.3 million. She is right in the middle of the pay scale for the surveyed female CEO, which helped determine the average salary for her last year at $ 13.6 million. Median means half is more than that level, and half is made less.

This level represents a drop of 1.9% from the median that the same female CEOs earned a year earlier. And that compares with the $12.6 million average for all-male CEOs in this year’s survey, which is 5.2% higher than the average for them a year ago. The overall average for the survey was $ 12.7 million.

While the number of women surveyed declined last year, experts say the change is happening too slowly as companies fail to properly identify and prepare more women for the role.

“It’s a slow process,” said Lorraine Haritone, president and CEO of Catalyst, a nonprofit that aims to advance women in the workplace. “But it stands to reason that we are still dealing with cultures fueled by unconscious bias and building a pipeline of female CEOs takes time.”

Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su topped the list with a compensation package of $ 27.1 million. It included a base salary of just over $ 1 million, a cash bonus of $ 2.5 million, and stock and option awards of approximately $ 23.5 million. AMD’s stock nearly doubled in 2020 after being the top-performing stock in the S&P 500 over the past two years.

A year ago, Su was the highest-paid CEO in the parity analysis, male or female, with a salary package of $58.5 million, mainly due to a $53.2 million stock grant.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra ranked second among women with a compensation package of $23.2 million. And Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden was third with a salary of $ 19.7 million.

Overall, many CEOs took pay cuts last year because of the pandemic, but got more in stock awards and other compensation. Salaries for female CEOs largely follow a similar pattern, but it is difficult to conclude because of the small sample size that any one minor adjustment can worsen the results.

There are some signs of change with more women in top management. JPMorgan Chase recently hired two women in roles where they could potentially replace CEO Jamie Dimon. And executive recruitment firms say they see an increased interest from companies, especially research showing that being a more diversified company leads to better results.

“It’s just good business,” said Jane Stevenson, vice president of organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry. “It’s now ‘Should more women be in business?’ More diverse pipelines produce better results. As more businesses prove that this can be done over time, then positive peer pressure begins. “

Korn Ferry’s Senior Client Partner Don Lowman hopes that growth will continue and that new leadership with different perspectives and perspectives will help companies move forward. Lowman and Stevenson stated that this is true not only for women but also for leaders of different races. Executive suits have long been dominated by white men.

“It’s the law of supply and demand,” Stevenson said. “We have farming on the demand side (in the boardroom), but now we need the supply side for farming.”


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