One more gap in pay between men and women

Add one more gap to the paycheques between men and women in the top management roles: When their companies flourish, male executives see their bonuses soar - but women in equivalent roles get practically no bump-up, a new British study has found.

"This is a very discouraging finding," said Clara Kulich, a professor at the University of Exeter psychology department, who presented the study this week in New York at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

"Even when women make it through the glass ceiling, this indicates there is still an indifference to their achievements," she said.

The study looked at total pay earned by 96 male and the same number of female executives at equivalent levels of responsibility in British companies in 1998 to 2006.

Their base salaries were not that far apart: In a typical year, men received an average annual £150,000, plus a bonus of 40 per cent of that amount. Women were paid an average of £140,000 and a 35-per-cent bonus.

But those differences widened significantly when companies enjoyed significant increases in stock price and profits: Male executives doubled, and in some cases, tripled, their performance bonuses. Female executives, meanwhile, received an average bonus increase of just 4 per cent, the study found.

Over all, men leading top-performing companies took home 19 per cent more compensation than women achieving the same results.

If they don't profit as much in good times, they also don't suffer as much in bad: Companies that badly underperformed cut the bonuses of their male executives by as much as half, while women's remained about the same.

Still, "the fact that female executives are neither rewarded nor punished for their work can be seen as an indicator of a more generalized organizational apathy and indifference toward women in management," Prof. Kulich says. Women may not be seen as fully responsible for the company results because they are perceived to lack the same ability as men to influence company performance, she concluded.

The gender discrepancy hasn't shown up as strongly in Canada, in part because the country counts just 31 women in C-suite roles, under 7 per cent of all of the most senior management jobs, says Alan Zelnicker, Toronoto-based principal of recruiter Rosenzweig & Co., which does an annual survey.

The company hasn't directly compared bonuses of men and women executives in Canada but plans to do so this fall, he says.