CEO’s Letter: Mind the (Pay) Gap

At the CHRO Private Briefing at the HRO Today Forum, North America last month, Larry Basinait, our VP of Market Research and I presented the 2023 CHRO Compensation Study featured as this month’s cover story. During the presentation, I made the joke that we had yet again found a pay gap between the male and female CHROs in publicly traded companies in the Fortune 100.  Many in the audience began nodding in sad approval and started to laugh when I added that we really hoped that the men would soon catch up to the women. Yes, women in this elite sample were paid ever so slightly higher than their male counterparts. That does not, by the way, mean that pay disparities do not exist in other HR compensation or CHRO compensation below the level of the Fortune 100.  However, we see the disparity disappearing in this group and HR is being a great example of practicing what we preach.  

But, in a very real sense, it should not matter. Follow me on this as I do not want to be misunderstood. Would it not be great to live in a world where gender pay gaps were a thing of the past?  We are not there yet, but let’s look forward to when gaps in compensation were not discernible by gender, race or ethnicity. Then we could focus on our commonalities not what divides us. 

There is considerable divisiveness on our society right now.  What you look like, who you love, and how you view social issues have become wedges that distract us from the importance of the fact we are all part of the human community with a vested interest to look out for each other.  In the business world, while different groups may have different views on forward paths, all employees, investors, and stakeholders should be united around the common goal of the success of the enterprise.  Yet, we often are pulled in distracting arguments about “who” rather than “how” or “what”. 

I am not minimizing the importance of these conversations about our differences, but I’m merely taking a moment to reflect on the greater issues that should unite us. 

We do not yet live in that world of idyllic harmony, but we should take a moment to celebrate our progress and when we move closer. Such as eradicating the gender pay gaps for CHROs. The difference between men and women in this sample was negligible and that is how it should be. There is no reason to believe either gender is better at leading HR than the other, and compensation should reflect that. We did not have enough sample or detail in this study to assess racial disparities or if they existed in this elite group.  We are all aware that disparities exist elsewhere, but the fact that the gender-based differences have been eradicated at leadership level of HR should be seen as what it is: 


This study has been at the mercy of publicly traded company data. Perhaps, next year if we can get volunteers from other sectors, we can do a broader sample and broader study to see if the gender-based wage gap is disappearing amongst HR leaders in other sectors of the economy and in smaller companies. Until then, please enjoy our coverage of this year’s study and let’s feel good about the results.  

Elliot S. Clark


Tags: CEO's Letter, June 2023

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