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Pay for female CEOs rose 26% in 2021, but ranks remain small

May 26, 2022 Updated Thu., May 26, 2022 at 4:49 p.m.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaks during the opening of contract talks with the United Auto Workers in Detroit on July 16, 2019.  (Associated Press )
General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaks during the opening of contract talks with the United Auto Workers in Detroit on July 16, 2019. (Associated Press )
By Mae Anderson Associated Press

NEW YORK – Pay packages for the women who run S&P 500 companies jumped in 2021 as the economy recovered and stock prices and profits soared.

Median pay for the women occupying the corner office rose to nearly $16 million, according to the annual survey done by Equilar for the Associated Press.

Still, experts say there’s much more to be done to improve gender diversity in the corporate ranks and close the pay gap between men and women.

Jane Stevenson, vice chair, Board & CEO Services at organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry said while it is good that women CEOs’ pay rose, there is still a lot to be done.

“I think the danger is to look at those cases of CEOs making more than their peers and see a message about the pay gap being closed – it’s not,” she said.

Of the 340 CEOs in the latest survey of S&P 500 companies, 18 were women, up from 16 in 2020.

Profits for S&P 500 companies rose roughly 50% and the index gained about 27%.

Because the bulk of a CEOs’ compensation is tied to such performance, their pay packages ballooned after years of mostly moderating growth.

Female CEO median pay rose 26.4% in 2021 to $15.8 million, with 15 of the 18 women CEOs in the survey seeing an increase.

Median means half made more than that level, and half made less. That was a bigger jump than that for male CEOs’ median pay, which rose 17.7% to $14.4 million. The overall median pay increased 17.1% to $14.5 million.

The few women who are CEOs of the largest U.S. companies typically make more money than their male counterparts.

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