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The CEO gender gap, in 3 depressing charts

The massive gender gap among CEOs of major US companies hasn't gotten any better in the past decade, according to two new reports. There are still very few women CEOs, and they don't make nearly as much as men do.

"Despite all of the attention placed on increasing the number of female executives at American companies, the needle on the gender gap has hardly moved," says one report by S&P Capital IQ. That report focused on the 500 companies that comprise the Standard & Poor's Index, which is widely considered to be one of the most accurate indicators of the broader American corporate landscape. These companies account for about 75 percent of the US equity market by capitalization.

Between 2006 and 2015, there was an average of just one new woman CEO at S&P 500 companies every two years. Of the 500 companies on the index, only 21 — a paltry 4.2 percent — are currently headed by a woman CEO. That's actually a decrease since 2014, when there were 25. These women also serve shorter median tenures, four years, compared with six years for male CEOs.

The S&P study is accompanied by two really depressing charts. There's this one, which shows that you can count on one hand the number of women CEOs in each major S&P 500 industry sector — and three of those industries have no women CEOs at all:

Depressing bar graph
More like the why-axis.

The second depressing chart is this one, which shows that there are so few women CEOs at major US companies, you don't even really need a chart. You can very easily just list them all.

List of S&P female CEOs

The third depressing chart comes to us courtesy of SNL Financial, which studied the gender pay gap among C-level employees in the banking industry from 2007 to 2014. In the banking industry, too, roughly 4 percent of CEOs are women. And while the gender wage gap fluctuates a lot more among CEOs and COOs, since fewer of them are women, it's pretty constant among CFOs — the C-level position occupied by the most women.

Compensation trends for female bank executives SNL Financial

The SNL Financial study also found that compensation for male bank CEOs climbed more than 60 percent cumulatively from 2007 to 2014, while female bank CEOs saw their compensation rise just 33 percent. In 2014, median total compensation for male CEOs was $646,803; for women, it was $499,738. That means the women CEOs made about 77 percent of what the men did, which is slightly less than the wage ratio for women overall in America.

Wage gap critics often say that statements like "women make 79 cents on the dollar" are misleading because they don't account for women's different career choices, among other things. But here we have men and women in the same field and the same position, and the wage gap still persists.

There are some specific reasons for this gap, not the least of which is that women tend to head smaller banks that have less capital. But that, too, has a significant gender component:

"[Clients] say, 'We want someone that's run a $10 billion bank through this kind of environment and here's our criteria. How do we find someone who fits the 10 check boxes?'" In a situation like this, [CEO of global executive search firm ZRG Partners Larry] Hartmann estimates that 95% of candidates would be male. "When you look at VP/director level, the mid-management level … you have a lot bigger labor pool to pick from that has more diversity of choice. But when you get to the top spots of big organizations the funnel gets small," he said.

Women CEOs interviewed by SNL Financial talked about persistence of the "good ol' boy network" in banking, which helps create what Hartmann called a "glass ceiling of middle management." Jon Terry, global financial services HR consulting leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that "unconscious bias" factors in because so many of the managers in charge of promotion are men, who tend to instinctively understand other men better. "And so if you've got a bunch of men making the promotion decisions, you are absolutely going to get more men promoted than women," Terry said.