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Top female CEOs are out-earning their male counterparts

According to Equilar, there’s one place where women are out-earning men. At the top.

Picture: Freeimages.com

We've all heard enough about the gender pay gap to know that women are paid less than men for the same work, right? Well, actually, that's just one part of the story.

According to Equilar- a company that analyses CEO compensation at America's leading firms, there's one place where women are out-earning men. At the top. "In 2015, the women who served in the top position at the 100 largest companies by revenue earned an average of $22.7 million dollars, compared to $14.9 million dollars for male CEOs on the list."

And that goes some way to explaining this large reverse pay gap.

"With just 23 women in the group, any average is going to be skewed by especially large packages, such as Catz's," writes Jena McGregor in the Washington Post.

It also points to an even bigger problem: the representation gap. According to research from Catalyst, a non-profit that tracks progress towards workplace gender parity, there are only 21 women CEOs among the S&P 500 companies. And change isn't coming any time soon. Research from PwC found that less than 3 percent of incoming CEOs in 2015 were women.

But it's not all bad news for women in the workplace. For researchers who have studied this trend, such as Lisa Leslie of New York University, the discrepancy between the salaries of male and female CEOs is about more than a couple of high-earning women skewing the results. Its evidence that in at least some areas of work, a "female premium" has started to emerge.

"The widespread adoption of diversity goals in organisations creates a female premium for certain women," Leslie and her co-authors write in a paper on the topic. In plain English: more and more companies are seeing the value of diversity, including at the top.

But there is a dearth of women with the experience needed to take on these most senior roles. Supply and demand dictates that those few female candidates qualified for leadership roles - what Leslie calls "high-potential women",come with a hefty price tag.

Unfortunately for most women, this female premium is as rare as a female CEO. Leslie concludes: "Evidence of a female premium remains the exception, rather than the rule."

Written by Stéphanie Thomson, Editor at the World Economic Forum

This piece was first published by the World Economic Forum.