The Highest-Paid Woman CEO Was Born A Man

Martine Rothblatt

United Therapeutics

Martine Rothblatt, Founder and CEO of United Therapeutics

Next time you're holding forth about the pay gap between male and female executives, add this startling fact to your list:

The highest-paid woman CEO was born a man.

That's what the New York Times' Claire Cain Miller observed in her recent article about a study of CEO pay.

The CEO in question is named Martine Rothblatt. She was born Martin Rothblatt. She founded Sirius Satellite Radio in 1994, as Martin, then had a sex-change operation. Then she founded United Therapeutics in 1996 and has served as its CEO ever since. She made $38 million last year, mostly, in stock options.

That $38 million put Ms. Rothblatt a fair ways above the second-highest paid woman CEO on the New York Times' list, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. Mayer made $25 million.

Those are big pay packages. And, in fact, the average female CEO on the list makes only $1.6 million less than the average male CEO (a statistical wash, apparently, once you adjust for relative ages and experience).

But Rothblatt and Mayer are two of only 11 female CEOs on the list. The rest of the 200 with market values over $1 billion, the 189 other CEOs, are men.

In other words, only 6% of CEOs at the top 200 companies are women.

And the percentage of women on boards and in other senior management positions, as well as their pay, has stopped increasing as a percent of the total.


According to some recent studies, there are a bunch of reasons:

  • Some women avoid the rat race
  • Some women executives negotiate less aggressively than their male counterparts
  • Some women don't want to travel as much as is often required to beat out male competitors
  • Some boards discriminate against women
  • Some women in business and finance have a harder time balancing work and family than men-often reducing or stopping work for a while after their kids are born (or leaving for other reasons). This often leads them to leave companies before they have a chance to become CEO.

One relative bright spot is the technology industry. More of the 11 female CEOs in the top 200 are in tech than in any other industry. And these women CEOs make more, on average, than their male counterparts.

Read Claire Cain Miller's whole article at the New York Times >

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