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Top executive women earning more, gender gap still wide

December 17, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ The gender pay gap can be a chasm in executive suites.

Women nationwide make 71 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And at the highest levels of corporate America, the gap can be as big as $50 million, give or take a few millions.

That’s the rough difference in pay between Linda Wachner, the Warnaco chief who tops Working Woman magazine’s annual list of best paid corporate women, and Green Tree Financial head Lawrence Coss, who heads a list ranked regardless of gender.

Still, Working Woman found good news Monday as it released its annual report on women’s pay. For the first time, all of the top 20 female executives in corporate America earned more than $1 million.

``We’re clearly moving in the right direction,″ said Nancy F. Smith, editor-in-chief of Working Woman.

She said women are poised to do even better in some sectors. Eight of the 20 best-paid women were in such fields as health care and communications, which are driving the new information economy.

``Women are greatly benefiting from the shifts in the way the economy works,″ said Smith. ``The knowledge economy is new and women who are coming into the economy are coming into areas where there is more opportunity.″

The magazine’s list is compiled from executives of public companies, which are required by law to disclose the pay of their top five executives.

Last year, seven out of the 20 women on Working Woman’s list of the highest paid female executives made less than $1 million. This year, several women who made more than $1 million got bumped off the list by higher-earners.

Wachner, head of Warnaco-Authentic Fitness, headed the list for a second year with total compensation last year of $11.16 million. Carol St. Mark, president of Pitney Bowes Business Services, ranked 20th with total earnings of $1.33 million.

Others on the list include Donna Karan, the fashion designer; Christie Hefner, head of Playboy; Ellen Gordon, head of Tootsie Roll and Estee Lauder, who earned a total of $3.82 million as ``chairwoman emeritus″ of her cosmetic empire.

Those earnings seem a pittance compared with the pay of the nation’s highest paid executives.

Coss last year earned $65.5 million in salary and bonuses, according to a Business Week magazine list that ranked top executive pay regardless of gender. Wayne Calloway, chief executive of Pepsico and No. 20 on the Business Week list, earned $11.4 million.

A recent survey by Catalyst, a non-profit research group, found that women make up just 2 percent of the five top-earning officers at the nation’s 500 biggest companies.

And nationwide, women still earn 71 cents on the dollar.

``We must take care to look at the whole picture,″ says Ellen Bravo, executive director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women. ``The majority of women work in female-dominated professions that pay less.″

In comparing men’s and women’s pay in more than 100 jobs, Working Woman also found lingering inequalities.

Women accountants made $28,496 in median pay, nearly $10,000 less than males. Women elementary school teachers took home $32,604 in median pay, $4,000 dollars less than males.

Only three of the surveyed jobs found higher pay for women. Female vice presidents of marketing earned $129,000 on average, $2,000 more than men in the same jobs. Women engineers with 10 to 14 years experience earned $64,108, slightly more than the $63,520 earned by men with similar experience. Women pharmacists at chain stores earned $53,600, $1,400 more than men in a similar position. No reason was given for why those professions were the exceptions.

Still, Jane Thompson, president of Home Services at Sears Roebuck and 14th on the Working Woman list, finds cause for optimism.

``Eight years ago, I was the first woman vice president at Sears,″ said Thompson, who earned $1.55 million last year. ``Now more than 15 percent of our officer group are women.″

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