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The Gender Gap in Top Corporate Jobs


  • Marianne Bertrand
  • Kevin F. Hallock


This paper studies the gender compensation gap among high-level executives in US corporations. We use the ExecuComp data set that contains information on total compensation for the top five highest paid executives of a large group of US firms over the period 1992-1997. About 2.5% of the executives in the sample are women. These women earn about 45% less than their male counterparts. As much as 75% of this gap can be accounted for by the fact that women manage smaller companies and are less likely to be CEO, Chair, or President of their company. The unexplained gender gap can be reduced to less than 5% when one further accounts for the fact that female executives are younger and have less seniority than male executives. Over the period under study, women have nearly tripled their participation in the top executive ranks and have also strongly improved their relative compensation, mostly by gaining representation into the larger corporations. While the absence of a significant gender gap (once we control for measurable characteristics) implies that women and men who hold similar jobs in firms of similar size received fairly equal treatment in terms of compensation, it does not rule out the possibility of discrimination in terms of gender segregation or promotion.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne Bertrand & Kevin F. Hallock, 2000. "The Gender Gap in Top Corporate Jobs," NBER Working Papers 7931, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7931
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sherwin Rosen, 1990. "Contracts and the Market for Executives," NBER Working Papers 3542, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
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    6. Murphy, Kevin J., 1985. "Corporate performance and managerial remuneration : An empirical analysis," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 11-42, April.
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    15. Ransom, Michael R. & Megdal, Sharon Bernstein, 1993. "Sex differences in the academic labor market in the affirmative action era," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 21-43, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing


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