Closing The Gap

More female leaders at big companies plan to give themselves raises—here’s why it’s a big deal

Sam Edwards | Getty Images

A new survey shows that more female executives plan to give themselves a raise next year. That's good news not just for them but for American working women generally, argues the president of the Women's Presidents Organization and the founder of EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, since it could help in the long-term fight for .

“One important part of closing the gap starts with those lucky enough to set their own salaries,” Marsha Firestone and Lisa Schiffman write in the Harvard Business Review. “What women in this category accomplish matters not only to them but also to our entire economy.”

EY's Entrepreneurial Winning Women program worked with WPO — which includes thousands of female presidents, CEOs and directors of privately held multimillion-dollar companies — to release its annual Business Outlook Survey. After surveying 413 WPO members, the organization finds that over 47 percent of women expect to give themselves a raise of 1 to 20 percent, while just over 5 percent of women plan to give themselves a raise of 20 percent or more.

“Whether it’s a reflection of robust economic growth, a redefinition of their own worth, or both, this change is very good news,” Firestone and Schiffman write. “It suggests more female founders are ready to put themselves on even footing with their male counterparts, at least when it comes to measuring their own worth.”

Although data show that U.S. women working full-time earned just $0.80 for every dollar earned by men in 2016 — and that gap only widens for women of color — nearly 40 percent of men are skeptical about whether a wage gap really exists. Warren Buffett is among the over 60 percent of U.S. men who trust the facts. He has become a prominent supporter of closing the gender wage gap and earlier this year he said that men have a role to play in making sure women advance in their careers, in business and the economy.

Other studies have found that women have a role to play, too, since even female founders are hesitant to pay themselves as much as their male counterparts do. The new survey results make Firestone and Schiffman hopeful that that could finally change.

“It’s hard to say with absolute precision that female entrepreneurs are now earning and paying themselves in ways that are comparable to men,” Firestone and Schiffman write. “But the new data from the survey suggests that they’re definitely in the ballpark, and the fact that they’re planning to pay themselves more is a good sign.”

While the Business Outlook Survey isn’t an exhaustive study on female executives across the U.S., the authors say the survey result “represents a hopeful indicator.” They also pointed to the fact that women-owned businesses have nearly tripled from 4 million 30 years ago to more than 11 million today.

“When the women running these companies set higher salaries for themselves, it sends a signal not only to investors but to everyone — including themselves — of what they’re worth," Firestone and Schiffman write.

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