Best-Paid Women Still Earn Less Than the Best-Paid Men

Many of us know women traditionally earn 77 cents on the dollar when compared to men mainly because of the lingering social differences in occupation, experience, and skill. However, even in the highest rungs of lucrative business practice, women still trail behind the scores of men running the show obtaining a mere 82 cents on the dollar.

"Last year, of the five best-paid executives at each of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index companies, 198 were women, or 8% of the total. Those high-achievers on average earned $5.3 million, 18% less than men." This means that top-performing females not only still earn less, but there are simply less of them around the top tiers of industry. Not a single S&P 500 company listed more than three women among their five highest-paid executives last year.

Unfortunately, many have hoped that women would stand on more equal ground five decades after females in substantial numbers began entering management ranks. Over this time, the stagnant social demographic has collected multiple theories as to why they struggle to find their equal value opportunity.

Facebook Inc.'s COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to be ambitious, but simultaneously notes that women's lack of workplace sponsors keeps them from asking for stretch assignments and raises. Without this supportive system, women are less likely to risk the positions they already have.

Other issues like the scarcity of female CEOs partly explains the S&P 500 gender gap. Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst, a research and advocacy group for women executives, stated that with such small numbers the average compensation of C-suite women already starts low because chief executives tend to command the highest pay. Future pay gap improvements may actually depend on women earning a more equal share of senior executive jobs to reflect their merit.

Even certain industries see a wider gender pay gap than others. For example, Denise Morrison, CEO of Camden, Campbell Soup Co. (CPB), had her total annual compensation calculated at $8.76 million, which is 24% less than the average earned by CEOs at food, beverage and tobacco companies. This also rings true when applied to Mylan Inc.'s Heather Bresch who was paid $9.96 million — 33% less than the average chief of a pharmaceutical, biotechnology and life sciences company.

M.J. Tocci, director of the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women at Carnegie Mellon University, also added an interesting perspective discussing the social backlash women receive when seeking higher pay. "Even people who believe women deserve what they're asking for often peg them as selfish and not likable, which isn't the reaction men get when they demand more."

Ultimately, Tocci rightfully encourages women at all levels to push for equal pay. "I tell women who say they don't care about money that they should still make what they're worth," she said. "Women who accept less than what men get for the same jobs are lowering the bar for the women who come after them." It is this acceptance, demand and understanding of equal work value today that may effect significant change in gender pay equality issues tomorrow.