There are not enough female CEOs—but women who reach the top are often paid better than men

Odd one out.
Odd one out.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Corporate America is not an easy place to be a woman.

Despite research that shows that companies which have more women in leadership positions are more profitable, not many women make it to the top of the ladder. Only 4.2% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. It seems like there is little progress being made on this front. In fact, in 2016, the total number of women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies declines to a paltry 21—from an equally meagre 24 the previous year. The newest batch of CEOs globally last year were less worldly and more male than ever.

But when a woman does rise to the rank of CEO in the largest US companies, she is paid more than her male counterparts.

In the annual list of CEO pay packages at the American firms with the highest revenue by Equilar, a company that specializes consulting on corporate boards, the average pay for a female CEO was about $23.1 million while the average pay for a male CEO was about $16 million. In fact, average pay for women on the list rose up from $22.7 million in 2015.

Of the 100 CEOs on the list, only nine are women. Safra Catz, the co-CEO of Oracle, with a pay package of $40.9 million was the highest-paid amongst the women and the fifth highest-paid overall. Four of the nine women—Safra Catz, Margaret Whitman, Virginia Rometty and Indra Nooyi—were amongst the 10 highest-paid CEOs. The nine women who made it to the list, in order of compensation:

While the pay differential seems to suggest that women in general are worth more to their companies, it more likely that the women who make it to the top in male-dominated fields are particularly valuable. In fact, research suggests that most women are overqualified and under-promoted.