Rise in Female CEOs at S&P 500 Companies: Progress Yet Still Far Behind

by Anna

The number of women leading S&P 500 companies is slowly increasing, but their presence remains significantly overshadowed by their male counterparts.

In the AP’s annual compensation survey, which analyzed 341 CEOs, 25 were women—the highest number recorded since the survey’s inception in 2011. This is a modest rise from the second-highest count of 21 female CEOs in 2017.


This survey, conducted by Equilar for The Associated Press, includes CEOs from S&P 500 companies who have held their positions for at least two fiscal years and whose companies filed proxy statements between January 1 and April 30, 2024.


Christy Glass, a sociology professor at Utah State University specializing in equity, inclusion, and leadership, noted that while the increase in female CEOs is encouraging, the overall trends remain disheartening.


“We’ll have a standout year for women CEOs,” Glass observed. “But then, a year or two later, we see a significant turnover.”


Lisa Su, CEO and Chair of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), emerged as the highest-paid female CEO in the AP survey for the fifth consecutive year, earning $30.3 million in fiscal 2023—unchanged from the previous year. Her overall ranking climbed from 25 to 21. Su’s compensation included a $1.2 million base salary, a $1.4 million performance bonus, and $21.8 million in stock awards.

Su has led AMD, based in Santa Clara, California, since 2014. Under her leadership, AMD is capitalizing on the growing interest in AI tools for data analysis and decision-making. AMD’s stock price surged by 127% in 2023.

Other top-paid female CEOs in the survey included Mary Barra of General Motors with $27.8 million, Jane Fraser of Citigroup with $25.5 million, Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman at $23.5 million, and Carol Tomé of UPS with $23.4 million.

Some prominent female CEOs, such as Julie Sweet of Accenture and Sue Nabi of Coty Inc., were not included in the survey as they became CEOs less than two years ago or their companies file proxy statements outside the January-April window.

The median compensation for female CEOs increased by 21% to $17.6 million, outperforming their male counterparts whose median pay rose by 12% to $16.3 million. However, the highest-paid men still earn significantly more than the highest-paid women, with Broadcom CEO Hock Tan earning $161.8 million, primarily in stock awards.

A contributing factor to the disparity in male and female CEO numbers is the “glass cliff” phenomenon, according to Glass. Her research indicates that women are often appointed as CEOs in challenging times for their companies.

“It’s like one step forward, two steps back,” she explained. “Women often get CEO opportunities when companies are in crisis, starting their leadership journey at a disadvantage.”

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