New Study Shows a Narrowing Compensation Gap Among Women Executives

April 10, 2012 Cathy Tinsley

However, Women Continue to Lag Male Counterparts in Representation at the Top According to Research by Georgetown McDonough School of Business Professor

In industries where women comprise more than 10 percent of the leadership positions, they often earn more than their male counterparts according to a new study released by Catherine Tinsley, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Women in Business.
Overall, the representation of women in leadership positions is less promising – with only 5 percent of executives in mid-sized companies being female, the study found.
The research, titled Women in Leadership: A Look at Companies in the S&P MidCap 400 Index, 2000-2010, was presented on Wednesday as part of the “Women in Business: Redefining the Game” conference hosted by the Center for Women in Business. [Watch the video.] Key findings included:
·         Women make up half the workforce, but percentages of women in the top ranks are disappointing. Fewer than 5 percent of the top executives in 2010 were women. In the 10-year period the survey covered, women in executive positions never exceeded 6 percent.
·         Only three industries – media, life sciences, and retailing – included women in more than 10 percent of executive positions. On the other end of the spectrum, the automobile and components industry reported no women executives.
·         Although the numbers of women in the top ranks are concerning, the compensation gap is narrowing. The survey showed that, while the gender gap in compensation had been significant throughout most of the decade, by 2010, the gap had closed. In fact, in the three industries where women make up more than 10 percent of top executives, women reported making more in overall pay than their male counterparts.
·         Location matters for women CEOs. Breaking the country into four regions and looking at data from 2006 to 2010, women fared best in the West (3.9 percent) and the Northeast (3.6 percent), with lower representation in the South (2.2 percent) and Midwest (0 percent).
·         Contrary to research that has suggested that women are recession proof, the survey found that the slow and steady climb of women executives came to a halt at the start of the global economic contraction in 2008. This trend affected younger female executives (between 27 and 39 years old) most acutely, with a decline in their ranks starting as early as 2006.
The research focused on women’s participation in the top management ranks, specifically as one of the top five earners reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Standard and Poor’s MidCap 400 listing, which includes companies with $1-7 billion in market capitalization. It was commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce to complement the extensive research that exists on female executive representation in Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies.
Catherine H. Tinsley is a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the executive director of the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Initiative. She studies how such factors as culture, gender, reputations, stereotypes, and negotiator mobility influence how people negotiate and manage conflict. She also examines decision biases, particularly under conditions of risk and uncertainty. Additionally, she has researched how and why U.S.-based management theories do and do not translate across national cultures.
She has received several grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation for her work on decision making and risk, as well as from the Department of Defense and Army Research Office for her work on modeling culture’s influence on negotiation and collaboration. Tinsley has served on numerous professional and editorial boards, and she has conducted training seminars for companies around the globe. She has collaborated with the White House and U.S. State Department to execute a woman-to-woman mentorship summit, and she partnered with the U.S. State Department and the Council of Women World Leaders to convene the first-ever world-wide meeting of the Ministers of Women’s Affairs.
Tinsley holds a Ph.D. from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, an M.A. from Northwestern University, and a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College.
About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business is a premier business school located at the center of world politics and business in Washington, D.C. Some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive education programs study business with an intensive focus on leadership and a global perspective. Founded in 1957, the business school today resides in the new Rafik B. Hariri Building, a state-of-the-art facility that blends the tradition of Georgetown University with forward-thinking functionality. For more information about Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, visit