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January 16, 2009
What Happened To the Glass Ceiling?
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ter cover your head: Researchers at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University claim that the glass ceiling has shattered--for some women, anyway.

Researchers at the school studied the career paths and pay of more than 16,000 executives over a 14-year period. They found that female executives who break through the glass ceiling in corporate America are rewarded with higher overall compensation than their male counterparts, and benefit from the same rate of promotion. On the other hand, the researchers found that the number of females in top executive positions remains a mere fraction of business leadership overall, largely due to the tendency of women to leave the workforce earlier than men.

The findings show that, among the group studied, female executives earn about $100,000 more per year than do men of the same age, educational background and job experience. On average, total compensation for all of the executives – about five percent of whom were female – was about $2.46 million, including nearly $461,000 in salary and bonus. On average, the executives were 53 years old, and about 23% of them held an MBA.

Women within the sample were younger on average than were the men, and had less job experience. Women were better represented at lower executive levels than they were at the very top of the corporate ladder. For example, only two percent of executives at the CEO or Chairman level were female, while women represented almost 6% of CFOs or vice presidents.

“Women aren’t climbing as many rungs on the executive ladder because they are more likely than males to retire earlier or switch careers,” said Robert A. Miller, professor of economics and strategy at the Tepper School and one of the study’s co-authors. “Although women may still be likely to face gender discrimination through unpleasant work environments or tougher, less rewarding assignments, our results find that there does appear to be equal pay and equal opportunity for women if they stay in the workforce and get to the executive level.”

If you’d like to learn more, you can download a PDF of the working paper at

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