March 29, 2023

Female CEO pay rose 26% in 2021, but not many women are in top jobs

2 min read

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 gender diversity falls short in the corporate ranks. Jane Stevenson, vice chair, Board & CEO Services at organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, said that while it is good that women CEOs’ pay rose, much remains to be done. “I think the danger is to look at those cases of CEOs making more 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 CEO’s 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.

Both outpaced average private-sector workers, who gained a 4.4% increase in wages and benefits through 2021. While that was the fastest on record going back to 2001, the raises also failed to keep up with inflation, which reached 7% at the end of last year.