Original article available on The Wall Street Journal

TJX Chief Carol Meyrowitz Is Highest-Paid Woman in Compensation Survey

More women are running America’s top companies and, in terms of pay, they may be closing in a bit on the men.

At 300 of the largest U.S.-traded public companies, chief executives earned a median of $11.4 million last year, according to a Wall Street Journal compensation surveyconducted by consulting firm Hay Group.

Fourteen of those companies had women in the corner office—eight of whom earned more than the median pay and six of whom earned less.

The women also performed a little better than the broader group, with eight achieving better than the median gain in corporate profit. The female CEOs delivered a median total shareholder return of 36%, versus 34% for the full survey.

The sample is too narrow to say the results are evidence of a trend, compensation experts said. But the numbers do show some women CEOs are competitively paid, and the findings echo other studies that show signs of progress toward equal compensation between the genders atop the corporate ladder.

TJX TJX +0.07% Cos. chief Carol Meyrowitz topped the highest-paid list among the women in the Journal survey, with a compensation package valued at $20.6 million. The company, which owns off-price chains T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods, paid her more than all but 26 other CEOs in the survey, but still less than half of what the top-paid men received.

Ms. Meyrowitz made more than Terry Lundgren, CEO of rival Macy’s Inc., M +0.29%who was awarded $11.3 million, even though both retailers have comparable revenue. TJX has edged out Macy’s in terms of shareholder return over the past three years. Ms. Meyrowitz also collected more than Kevin Mansell, CEO of Kohl’s Corp. KSS +0.48% , and Glenn Murphy, CEO of Gap Inc. GPS -0.49%

“Executive compensation at TJX remains heavily weighted toward performance-based incentives,” said a TJX spokeswoman, adding that Ms. Meyrowitz’s pay “was tied to our very strong performance and in line with prior years.”

Women CEOs

14 ranked in the annual pay survey, and here are the top three:

Carol Meyrowitz
Firm: TJX Cos.
Compensation: $20.6 million
Shareholder return: +28%

Phebe N. Novakovic
Firm: General Dynamics
Compensation: $18.5 million
Shareholder return: +41%

Indra Nooyi
Firm: PepsiCo
Compensation: $18.1 million
Shareholder return: +25.1%

At the other end of the scale, Kim Bowers, chief executive of gas-station and convenience-store retailer CST BrandsInc., CST +0.28% had the lowest compensation package of the women on the list, at $4.9 million.

The first-year CEO ranked 268th overall, but did better than World Fuel ServicesCorp.’s INT +0.24% Michael Kasbar,Delek US Holdings Inc. DK +1.60% ‘s Ezra Uzi Yemin and Western Refining Inc.WNR -0.91% ‘s Jeff Stevens.

International Business Machines Corp.’sIBM -0.33% Virginia Rometty turned in the worst performance among female CEOs in the survey, with total shareholder returns of minus 0.2%. Ms. Rometty made $13.2 million, significantly more than some better-performing male and female chiefs.

Surveys that include CEOs of smaller companies, both publicly and private held, show women making strides in pay, though a gap persists. Female CEOs earned nearly 80% of their male counterparts’ compensation in 2013, according to a study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research based on Labor Department data. Two years ago, women who were CEOs earned 69% of what men who were CEOs were paid.

“It definitely looks like progress,” said Heidi Hartmann, president of the think tank. “Something that’s really changed in the last few years is the scrutiny.”

Wage gaps could stem from women’s shorter tenures at the top, their tendency to lead smaller companies or gender discrimination, economists and sociologists said.

General Motors Co. GM -0.64% faced a public uproar in February amid reports Mary Barra would be paid less as CEO than her predecessor, Daniel Akerson. The company released details of Ms. Barra’s pay package ahead of schedule, showing that she is eligible for compensation that’s 60% higher than Mr. Akerson’s.

There are hints that female executives are gaining financial ground more broadly at U.S. companies. Apple Inc. AAPL +0.76% ‘s new retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, landed a pay package that includes $68 million of restricted stock, according to regulatory filings, making her one of the best-compensated executives—male or female—at any public company. Facebook Inc. FB +0.99% ‘s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, was the social-media giant’s highest-paid executive last year, earning $16.1 million.

Board members and compensation committees at large companies are increasingly sensitive to the gender-pay issue, particularly for top executives, said Robin Ferracone, CEO of consulting firm Farient Advisors LLC, which advises board compensation committees. The female executives she has worked with have landed pay packages at large firms that are in line with male peers, she said.

“People are paying attention,” Ms. Ferracone said. Companies “don’t want to be called out for underpaying female executives.

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