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SKIRTED!! Women CEO's Pay Takes Disproportionate Hit

11/05/2009 10:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Among all the players in the economic meltdown who were paraded passed us over the last year, there was one common characteristic: they were nearly all MEN.

Therefore, we might have expected that the MEN at the top would take a disproportionate hit in compensation due to the fallout.

Not so.

Women CEOs were the ones absorbing the greatest pay cuts this year, and they lagged significantly behind their male counterparts in bonus and perquisite compensation, according to a report released last week by the Corporate Library.

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According to the study: "Total realized compensation, which adds stock option and restricted stock profits to annual compensation figures, revealed a median change of -6.38 percent. Realized compensation declines for female CEOs however were nearly THREE TIMES that amount. On average, women CEOs earned 58 PERCENT of what male CEOs earned in realized compensation last year.

Among the report's other findings:
- Bonuses for male CEOs were 3.5 times larger than those doled out to female CEOs, on average.
- Perquisite compensation -- everything from company cars to club memberships -- for male CEOs was nearly twice that received by women CEOs, on average.

WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

I scoured the internet to find possible explanations for these findings. Among them:

- "The women who have made it still feel the need to be twice as good, but sometimes that means being twice as cheap,"

- "Female CEOs are very aware that there 'aren't many of us' and feel added pressure to prove themselves before pushing for pay."

THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER...

A few years ago, I led a major study to identify the patterns of behavior that are most statistically aligned with the highest levels of success in a career (for the bestselling book The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers). When looking for gender differences, I discovered that women were more likely to be focused on the success of their peers and subordinates (even more than their own success) - a behavior strongly correlated with individual success.

However, women were much less likely to proactively expand their permission and authority limits, and were more likely to "focus on the objectives given to them", versus redefining their objectives.

Do these findings indicate that women, even those at the top, are less assertive than their male counterparts, and thus take a disproportionate hit when times are bad? I just don't know.

Can anyone explain what is really going on here, or offer some tangible suggestions as to how parity might finally be achieved?

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