Gender gap in pay worse at the top

Forbes' list of the 100 highest-earning women in corporate America reveals that the gender gap is even uglier at the top.

Published September 12, 2008 1:45PM (EDT)

Forbes' list of the highest-paid women in corporate America brings with it some good news and some bad news. The good news: Every little girl in America can now dream of growing up to be the next Meg Whitman, former CEO of and current special advisor to eBay, who makes $120.4 million a year. Dang! I don't know what the top-earning man in corporate America makes, but after a certain point, even I must admit it's hard to give a hoot about the gender gap.

Writer Judith H. Dobrzynski explains why we should still care about the gap at the highest levels, though -- because it's even worse than it is down here among the proletariat. Although it takes a mere $3 million per annum to get yourself on the ladies' best-paid list, all 100 of the top male earners were making at least $18 million. Furthermore, "as Forbes statistics show, the median salary for the 100 chief executives of the largest U.S. companies, who all happen to be men, is about twice the median salary of the 100 highest-paid women, but the median male bonus is almost three times that of women." Yeah, that would be the bad news.

I know, it's tough to feel pity for anyone making $3 million a year, but as Dobrzynski points out, the problems with the disparity between male and female executives' pay go way beyond any individual woman's bank account. Exhibit A: A recent study that examined why women tend not to be rewarded as well as men for risky, company-saving turnarounds found that "companies simply have lower expectations for women, that they do not believe women influence outcomes as much as men do, and that they are less credible as leaders." Terrific. But on the plus side, Dobrzynski also notes that "much research exists demonstrating that stereotypes can be changed by knowledge of examples contrary to them." So go check out the 100 good examples Forbes has compiled, and make sure to tell your friends.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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