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Men dominated 2021 ranks of highest-paid CEOs in S&P 500

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Men dominated 2021 ranks of highest-paid CEOs in S&P 500

Women are nearly absent from the group of top-earning CEOs at S&P 500 companies, according to an analysis of the most recent data by S&P Global Market Intelligence

Nineteen of the 20 highest-paid S&P 500 CEOs were men in 2021. Companies will largely report 2022 compensation data later this year in annual proxy statements to shareholders.

Women have long been underrepresented in leadership roles in corporate America. Companies with female executives are generally more profitable, more socially responsible and offer better customer service, according to a 2021 Harvard Business Review analysis of academic studies on the matter. The issue has also drawn increased attention as investors evaluate corporate environmental, social and governance goals.

Gender imbalance

Just one of the 26 largest S&P 500 companies by market capitalization at the end of 2021 was led by a woman — Accenture PLC, helmed by CEO and Chair Julie Sweet.

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Total adjusted compensation for the highest-paid CEOs of S&P 500 companies in 2021 ranged from $296.2 million to $37.8 million. The same figures for female CEOs in 2021 ranged from $51.2 million to $7 million.

Top earners

The highest-paid CEO of an S&P 500 company in 2021 was Expedia Group Inc.'s Peter Maxwell Kern, whose total adjusted compensation added up to $296.2 million, which was 2,897 times greater than the median salary of one of his employees. Long-term equity incentives account for about 99% of Kern's total 2021 annual compensation, and he is not expected to get additional equity compensation for the rest of his three-year employment agreement, according to Expedia's most recent proxy statement.

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The highest-paid female CEO of an S&P 500 company in 2021 was PG&E Corp.'s Patricia Kessler Poppe, whose total adjusted compensation was $51.2 million, which was 255 times greater than the median salary of one of her employees.

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Kinder Morgan Inc. CEO Steven Kean's compensation had the biggest year-over-year percentage growth, going from $1 in 2020 to $18 million in 2021. Kean's compensation is mostly long-term incentive equity awards and related dividend equivalent payments, according to Kinder Morgan's most recent proxy statement.

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Pay ratios

The median compensation for S&P 500 CEOs in 2021 was 193 times greater than the median employee compensation at those companies. The median compensation for employees at S&P 500 companies was $72,436.

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The median compensation for female S&P 500 CEOs in 2021 was 220 times greater than the median employee compensation at those companies. The median compensation for employees at these women-led companies was $85,504.

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