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Women CFOs barely out-earn their male peers, here’s why

Sally Herships Dec 18, 2015
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It’s well known that women make less money than men, which is what makes a recent review of salaries at S&P 500 companies stand out. The Associated Press and consulting firm Equilar took a look at what chief financial officers are paid and found that female CFOs are making more than their male counterparts.

“I think what we’re seeing in these latest numbers about CFOs may be a better indicator of a crack in the glass ceiling than overall pay equity,” said Linda Barrington, executive director of Cornell University’s Institute for Compensation Studies.

Barrington said there are a lot of different factors that determine pay — like which industry the job is in.

“Are these women clustered in different kinds of companies and that’s why they’re paid more? Is it actually a performance reflection, or is it a anomaly this year and next year we might see the numbers back down,” she said.

Equally important to consider is a company’s size, said Nora McCord, managing director at Steven Hall & Partners, an executive compensation consulting firm.

“The biggest driver of pay is the size of the company,” she said.

Which means it’s likely they work at larger companies which pay more. Think Fortune 200 rather than Fortune 500.

Also important, notes McCord, is taking a close look at how much larger the salaries in question are. “Let’s be clear about what more is — it’s really like one percent,” she said.

The figure the AP tallied was $3.32 million in salary for women CFOs and $3.3 million for men, a difference of $20,000

And why look at CFOs? Josh Crist, managing director with Crist|Kolder Associates, an executive search firm, said that’s “because the CFO had been the least diverse chair over time.”

Crist said there’s been a big push in the boardroom for diversity, and this latest jump in pay for female CFOs is a sign that it’s working. But McCord said in order to pay female executives more, first, you need more of them. 

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