Executive Benefits

Critical Updates on Executive Pay for Women in the Workplace

Critical Updates on Executive Pay for Women in the Workplace

Author Executive Benefits Team
Date April 29, 2021

Yes, the update on executive pay for women in the workplace sounds better than it did only a few years ago. But no, America, we are not yet where we should be.

According to the McKinsey & Company 2020 Women in the Workplace Study, the roles of working women, at least in pre-COVID 2020, were slowly trending upward. As you see by the chart below, meaningful strides were made between 2015 and 2020 for woman in the roles of Senior Vice President and top C-Suite job titles.

Percent of Change in Women in the Workforce by Job Title

 Entry Level JobsManagerSr. Manager 
or Director
Total # of Women in 202047%38%33%29%28%21%
Percent of change between 2015 & 2020+5%+3%+5%+4%+18%+22%
Source: McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace 2020

The Broken Rung

The recent strides made by women in the workplace have been largest in top-tier jobs only because the deficits there were greatest. The fact that women in entry level jobs grew by only 5 percent is both expected and unremarkable given that women already had a strong presence in these lowest-paying positions.

As the McKinsey report explains, women must also deal with “the broken rung”. The broken rung exemplifies the concept that, over the last six years, women, despite making gains against where they were in the past, are falling further behind men. “For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted.”

Executive Pay for Women in the Workplace Still Lagging

Even when women manage to reach higher rungs on the corporate ladder, executive pay for women still lags behind. An article published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle noted,  “…once they have arrived, they (women) often face another hurdle: compensation gaps. Part of this pay gap is attributable to women being in the C-suite while not serving in top roles. These top roles have a more significant percentage of equity-based compensation that often leads to higher overall compensation.”

And Then There’s COVID-19

Additionally, the disruptions of COVID-19 have generally hit working women harder than men. With schools shut down and childcare services closed or limited, many women found their careers disrupted even more than the careers of their male peers. Add in greater demands of home upkeep and meal preparation, exacerbated by the absence of cleaning services, nannies, and others who helped lighten the load for working mothers and you have a workforce of women under extreme stress. And this includes women at all levels from low-paying jobs where bills and expenses are a heavy burden to top-tier female executives who are carrying both concerns about their household and the demands of their job.

Senior-level women are, according to the McKinsey report, “1.5 times more likely than senior-level men to think about downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of COVID-19.”

Companies of all sizes have to be considering, “Can we afford to lose our senior-level female executives?” And if the answer is “no” then the next questions become, “What changes can we make to better support working women, to improve their work environment, and to ensure that our executive pay for women in the workplace is competitive and equitable?”


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