Gap In Women's Earnings Persist

October 21, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Women executives in Michigan’s largest public companies make 49 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts — 27 cents worse than the national average.

In nearly all measures, the 2005 Women’s Leadership Index shows that Michigan lags behind the rest of the country.

In West Michigan, X-Rite Inc. and Steelcase have the highest percentage of women leaders, ranking among the top six companies in the state.

Those conclusions are the most attention-grabbing findings of a study released today by the Inforum Center for Leadership and Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.

The study, presented as the 2005 Michigan Women’s Leadership Index (WLI), seeks to quantify the role female executives play in the largest public companies headquartered in Michigan. The premiere WLI rankings of 2003 showed that Michigan was behind the national average for participation of women in the highest levels of business. The results of this year’s study, according to Inforum President and CEO Terry Barclay, are even more discouraging.

“With a 20 percent decline in women officers at Index 100 companies and a wage gap that is much wider than the national disparity for all workers, women aren’t faring nearly as well at the top of Michigan’s employment pyramid as commonly believed,” Barclay wrote.

Using the study’s sports-related terminology, four of the 10 companies that rated as “MVP” on the 2003 list have fallen to “In The Game” status, the mid level. None of the 20 Fortune 500 companies featured in the study has a woman among its top five officers.

The highest-scoring West Michigan company is X-Rite Inc., with two females among its top five officers. Steelcase Inc., which added one female officer this year, is the only new MVP in the state. Herman Miller Inc. is rated one point below MVP status.

Ranked first in the state is FNBH Bancorp, the holding company for First National Bank of Howell.

Many firms have seen their only female officer leave, and several have seen a decrease in the number of women on their boards of directors. Only 21 of the top 100 public companies in the state (as measured by market capitalization) have even one woman among their five highest-paid executives. Of those 21, only five have more than one woman officer.

The study shows that female participation on boards of directors has remained relatively flat from the 2003 survey, whereas the percentage of companies with female officers has dropped.

The 26 women who are among the top-paid executives at these firms made a total of $8,251,882 in 2004. That breaks down to an average of $317,380 per woman. The 428 men who made up the rest of the top-paid executives list took home $278,417,956 (without bonuses or stock options), an average of $650,509.

Removing the Fortune 500 companies (and their dearth of female executives) from the calculation brings those figures slightly closer to parity. Among firms with revenues over $100 million — but not counting the Fortune 500 companies — the average salary for a woman is $419,695, compared with $534,635 for a man.

It’s also worth noting that none of the women executives listed in the study is the CEO of her firm.

The complete study is available for download at    

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