Kayla Heisler

While it’s no secret that far fewer women hold CEO positions then men, what they lack in physical numbers, they now apparently make up for in paycheck size.

Women who do make it to the C-suite are out earning their male counterparts. Women CEOs saw a 15.4 percent pay increase from 2016 to 2017 while male CEOs saw a pay increase of 8.2 percent. Executive data firm Equliar provided a data analysis for The Associated Press, and the findings revealed that the median compensation for a woman CEO at an S&P 500 company was valued at $13.5 million for the 2017 fiscal year while men CEOs netted a median income of $11.5 million. Of all S&P 500 leaders, 3 of the 10 highest paid CEOs in 2017 were women.

“Boards don’t want to shortchange their female CEO in today’s environment, when pay equality is such an issue,” says Farient Advisor CEO Robin Ferracone. Though women continue to encounter wage discrimination in many jobs, it is refreshing to know that some companies are paying women fairly even if their motivation is partially fear of bad PR. One would hope that the same motivation that has led to an increase in salaries would lead to an increase of gender diversity overall. Men make up 95% of the CEO population at S&P 500 companies, and of the 339 companies analyzed, just 17 were led by women. Only 64 women have ever made the Fortune 500 list, and it still has to be said that the vast number of women in the country still are facing a massive pay gap. A working paper by the Academy of Managment suggests that the pay gap itself could in fact be a contributing factor for the higher earnings of the women at the top. A combination of field studies and labratory experiments revealed that because of the additional challenges women must face to reach the highest levels of organizations, they are sometimes viewed as being more valuable than men who have reached the highest levels and are more likely to be rewarded with more pay.

Hiring more women in leadership roles is not only good for the CEOs earning higher salaries, but it is also good for the companies for which they are working. A working paper by the Peterson Institute for International Economics references a study of 21,980 firms from 91 countries that reveals that while there is still a scarcity of women in high leadership positions, companies that have a greater amount of gender diversity show a positive correlation with firm characteristics such as size as well as national characteristics such as girls’ math scores, the absence of discriminatory attitudes toward female executives, and paternal leave availability. In addition to this, they were also more likely to net a higher profit margin than companies with less women in higher leadership roles

Fortunately, steps are being taken provide more opportunities to increase company gender diversity. Catalyst, a nonprofit organization, provides coaching to build diverse workforces that lead to more women being hired for executive leadership positions over time. Catalyst senior vice president of advisory services at Catalyst Brande Stellings attests that companies who work with the company have reaped the benefits rapidly. "The differentiator is not generation or time, but it's how much does it matter to the leader or organization," says Stellings.

Though there are undoubtedly strides that still must be made in the fight for gender equality, hearing that at least a few women are closing the gap is at least one spot of sunshine worth celebrating.


Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.