How to limit CEO pay: hire more women

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Women get paid less. No news flash there. What’s a little more interesting in The Corporate Library’s look at how much money male and female CEOs make is that women actually have higher base salaries, but lose out overall once bonuses, perks and other cash incentives are added in.

The research, by Paul Hodgson and Greg Ruel, used data for 80 female and 2,621 male CEOs of Russell 3000 companies. The median base salary for women was $611,000, while men came in at $590,000. For total annual comp, men beat women $1.1 million to $975,200.

But—and this is going to verge on seeming equitable—female-led companies didn’t do as well in terms of total shareholder return. Nearly 36% percent of firms with men at the helm outperformed the S&P 500 from 2005 through 2007, while only 28% of companies headed by women did.

Hodgson and Ruel say that performance differential isn’t enough to explain the entire disparity in total comp. But add in a few more data points—like the fact that women, on average, have a shorter tenure at the top—and maybe the gender gap isn’t nearly as big a deal as we think. Unless, of course, you consider the fact that only 3% of the CEOs in the sample were female in the first place, and women, generally speaking, make up half the population.