Women in Business

The 25 Highest-Paid Women Take a Miniature Pay Cut

The 25 highest-paid female executives brought home a little less in 2013.

Well-known female powerhouse executives like Oracle’s Safra Catz, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg all drew smaller pay packages in 2013 compared to 2012, according to data provided to Fortune by Equilar, an executive compensation data firm.

Median pay for the 25 highest-paid female executives at publicly traded companies edged down to $13.8 million last year from $14.7 million in 2012, according to Equilar. By comparison, median pay packages for the top 25 paid male executives grew to $44.1 million from $40.7 million in 2012.

It’s not all bad news for top paid women, though. While the data is too small to eke out trends for anyone outside the few female executives at the very top, pay for those top female executives has grown over the years, says Aaron Boyd, director of governance research at Equilar.

Looking at a much broader swath of executives, female CEOs generally made 80% of male CEO salaries in 2013, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Notably, the top paid female executive in 2013 was born a man. United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt made a whopping $38.2 million. Rothblatt underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1994 and told Fortune earlier this month she had benefited from male privilege earlier in her life. She also benefited from the FDA’s approval of her company’s pill to treat high blood pressure in the lungs, which doubled the company’s stock price and quadrupled her pay package from a year earlier.

United Therapeutics spokesman Michael Benkowitz said that Rothblatt’s compensation is tied to the performance of the company and her pay formula hasn’t changed since the company went public 15 years ago. “We think it’s one of the purest performance-based compensation plans in the country,” Benkowitz said. Over the years, the company’s performance has translated into a less generous compensation for Rothblatt, with few or even zero stock option awards.

No. 2 on the list, Oracle’s co-CEO Safra Catz, saw her pay dip in 2013 to $37.7 million from $43.6 million a year earlier. It’s not because of poor performance; Oracle trimmed stock options for all its executives in response to mounting criticism of its over-the-top pay packages. Oracle didn’t return a request for comment.

“We don’t know what her pay is going to look like as CEO, but even at …

$37 million as CFO, that puts her in the top 20 of all CEOs. And she’s made the top 10 in the past,” Boyd says.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sandberg saw her pay drop by $10 million to a mere $16.1 million in 2013. But no need to fret, last year’s pay package doesn’t include the $300 million she’s collected over the years selling Facebook shares after the company’s 2012 initial public offering. Facebook declined to comment on Sandberg’s pay.

Marissa Mayer’s earnings slipped just a bit in 2013, mostly because she’s no longer a newbie on the job. CEOs tend to make more in their first year, thanks to lavish recruiting awards. But she has a decent shot at a pay hike if the company’s share price continues its upward trend, now that Yahoo is $9 billion richer from selling its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba at its initial public offering. Yahoo didn’t return a request for comment.

One newcomer to the top female executives list is Cheniere Energy Senior Vice President for Marketing Meg A. Gentle, who made $21.7 million in 2013. Her boss, Cheniere Energy CEO Charif Souki, made six times that amount—$141.9 million. The company’s stock price has skyrocketed, as it’s poised to be one of the first exporters of U.S. liquefied natural gas. Cheniere Energy’s shareholders aren’t too happy about the generous executive pay; some investors have filed a lawsuit against its “excessive, improper awards.” And shareholders disapproved of the company’s pay package in non-binding votes, according to recent regulatory filings. Cheniere Energy also didn’t return a request for comment.

In the Equilar data, compensation totals include base salary, bonuses, the value of stock options and restricted stock, performance-based incentives, and other perks like relocation stipends, attorney fees, car leases, and security for executives’ homes.

Overall, top female CEOs did a heck of a lot better than the average U.S. private sector worker, who is making around $44,100, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Executive compensation expert Nell Minow says women have been just as “disgustingly overpaid as men.” Remember when Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, asked HP to pay to move her yacht from the East Coast to the West Coast across the Panama Canal? (She didn’t get her yacht moved.)

“Some of the worst pay packages in history have gone to women,” says Minow, who has been fighting on behalf of investors for years to stem such exorbitant pay. So far, shareholder efforts to pressure compensation committees to trim back pay have had little effect. “There’s no good news about CEO pay.”

See the full list of highest-paid female executives.

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