“Meet the 10 highest paid female CEOs in the country,” the Oregonian headline reads. What follows is an account of women in business that both surprises and intrigues me.
With Hilary Clinton in the spotlight of American Presidential politics, I have begun to consider the roles of female professionals more. In various history classes I have learned about the feminist movement and the large discrepancies between men and women in many regards. Yet the opening sentence of the Oregonian article reads, “Female CEOs are outpacing their male colleagues in pay…” Normally I would stop reading and remained slightly perplexed for the day before the article would drift to the back of my mind and I would forget about it. But GPC has ignited my interest in looking beyond a headline or first line and finding the political implications and reasons behind a story. So I read on and I what I found, when examined closer, made a lot of sense.
The article explained that although the median pay for women has risen to $15.9 million compared to the $10.4 million of their male counterparts. The catch for female CEOs however, is that according to a study preformed by Equilar and the Associate Press, there are far less women CEOs in corporate America. In fact, the study showed that of the 340 CEO profiled, only 17 were female.
To explain the discrepancies in pay I looked to an article in the Atlantic titled, “The Secret to Smart Groups: It’s Women.” The article explained the idea of a smart group as needing a collective intelligence. Simply put, a smart group is not necessarily made up of brilliant individual minds, but instead based on the “average social sensibility” and the ability to register non-verbal ques. Social awareness and sensitivity are found more frequently in the female brain which is why Derek Thompson predicts that the “male-female wage gap will not only close but also invert.” According to the Oregonian article, it seems that Thompson may be right, however women still have a long road ahead of them. Female CEOs may be fairly compensated, however a study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center found that for every dollar men receive, women receive 78 cents
Naomi Wolf argues in an article titled, “In the Media, a CEO remains a women first” published on the Globe and Mail that even if women are paid equally to their male counterparts, they are still viewed differently, and oftentimes, with less respect. Two thirds of journalists are men and the media tends to deny women credit by “concentrate[ing] so narrowly on gender that a woman’s very leadership is weakened.” And negative news coverage news coverage “becomes a real-world outcome that negatively affects a company’s bottom line.” Bitch Media explains that women are not only discriminated against in the newsroom, but also in their own offices. Female CEOs are more likely to be fired than their male counterparts (38% of women have been fired compared to 27% of male CEOs).
Despite all of the inequalities, some women have prevailed. The 10 highlighted in the Oregonian article range from #1 Marissa Mayer of Yahoo who receives a salary of $42.1 million to #10 Ellen Kullman from DuPont who earns $13.1 million. However even these women who corporate America views as the most successful of their time have faced their share of challenges. #4, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo who earns $19.1 million explained in a video series created by The Makers that the press made her out to be “wild and wacky.” She worked incredibly hard, but the press still found stories to bring her down. One of which criticized her in detail for taking her shoes off in her office when she was the only one left at work at 8pm. This is just one of many incidents that business women regularly face.
I have found throughout my research on women as well as my semester in GPC that politics and business are very intertwined. So I leave you with the question, are the goals of feminism best achieved through grassroots political organizing or through sales tactics borrowed from the business world?
Interested in the topic? Take a look at this video created by The Makers: