Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer was the highest paid female chief executive in 2021, according to a new Equilar study. Brewer was awarded $28.3 million in compensation — $20.2 million in the form of stock awards.
Equilar's study looked at the 100 largest companies by revenue that filed 2021 proxy statements by March 31. Although some companies have yet to submit proxy statements, this new data provides an early look at how things are shaping up for women at the top.
There were nine female CEOs in that group, up from six in the same period the prior year. But there were zero women among the top 10 highest paid CEOs overall.
The top-paid CEO last year was Intel's Patrick Gelsinger, who was awarded $177.9 million — nearly $170 million of that in stock and option awards. Apple CEO Tim Cook ranked No. 2 with total compensation of $98.7 million — $82.3 million of that in stock awards.
They were followed by:
- No. 3: Broadcom CEO Hock Tan ($60.7 million)
- No. 4: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella ($49.9 million)
- No. 5: Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge ($41.8 million)
- No. 6: Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon ($39.5 million)
Walgreens CEO Brewer was the 14th highest paid chief executive.
Here's how the rest of the women on the list made out, factoring in stock and option awards as well as salary for total pay package:
- No. 15: UPS CEO Carol Tome ($27.6 million)
- No. 24: General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic ($23.6 million)
- No. 29: Accenture CEO Julie Sweet ($23.1 million)
- No. 45: Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser ($20.5 million)
- No. 64: Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good ($16.2 million)
- No. 78: Progressive CEO Susan Patricia Griffith ($14.5 million)
- No. 85: Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub ($11.1 million)
- No. 87: Oracle CEO Safra Catz ($10.6 million)
"It is discouraging to see how underrepresented women are at the top and how overrepresented they continue to be at the bottom of the income scale," said Sarah Anderson, an executive compensation expert at the progressive think tank Institute for Policy Studies.
Big picture, the new data reveal CEO pay came surging back from pandemic plunges. Companies rewarded leaders who stuck around and steered businesses through pandemic turbulence amid rising worker unrest. A roaring stock market further boosted the value of chief executives' stock-based compensation.
Apple CEO Cook's pay increased 569% between 2020 and 2021, due in part to a 2020 stock grant — his first since becoming CEO in 2011 — that will start vesting in 2023, the data show. (Intel CEO Gelsinger took the helm in 2021, so there is no year-over-year comparison.) The median total compensation for chief executives soared to $20 million in 2021, a 30.8% increase over 2020.
The new data also reveal a widening pay gap between company executives and their workforces. The CEO Pay Ratio — the ratio of CEO to median worker compensation — increased by 7% over the prior year.
"They really just let loose in 2021 and were focused on keeping their executives happy and not worrying as much about what was happening on the worker end," said Anderson. "In the long run, and even in the short run, it's not going to be good for the bottom line."
In 2021, CEOs made $254 for every $1 the average worker made.
The median pay for workers rose from $68,883 in 2020 to $71,869 in 2021, a 4.3% increase which failed to keep up with rapidly rising inflation.
"We're seeing that the skyrocketing corporate profits — the benefits of that — have been funneled up to the top of the corporate ladder and workers, many of whom are on the frontlines of the crisis, have not been reaping the rewards," said Anderson.