The gender pay gap for U.S.-based general counsel is widening, according to a new report.
Equilar’s latest General Counsel Pay Trends study shows that male GCs earned 18.6% more than their female counterparts—the largest pay discrepancy since Equilar began studying GC wages in 2014.

The report crunches pay data for top lawyers and named executive officers at Equilar 500 companies, a revenue-based index of publicly traded companies in the U.S. The latest wage statistics are based on Securities and Exchange Commission filings from companies that ended the fiscal year between March 2018 and February 2019.

In earlier studies, the average GC gender wage gap hovered around 11%. But from 2017 to 2018, the median total pay for male GCs jumped from $2.52 million to $2.63 million, while female GC pay dipped from $2.44 million to $2.21 million.

John Gilmore, managing partner at executive search consulting firm BarkerGilmore, which contributed to the report, noted that the top six highest-paid GCs this year are men, while women account for just four of the top 20.

Despite the discouraging stats, Gilmore said in an interview Wednesday that “clients are out actively trying to attract more women and minorities to the GC ranks.”

But he acknowledged that, in general, when “you’re looking at some of the larger companies you’re finding a lot of men in those roles and they’re being extremely well-compensated because they’re [named executive officers] and they have a seat at that table.”

He added, “Why aren’t more women or minorities being prepared as successors for those Fortune 50 companies that are paying the most money? That’s a good question.”

Equilar’s findings echo the results of the recent 2019 General Counsel Compensation Survey from Corporate Counsel affiliate ALM Intelligence, which found that GC pay is up as a whole, but not for women. The survey also revealed that men got an average bonus of $826,131, compared with $285,754 for women—a gap of more than $540,000.

The Equilar study also showed that the median total pay for GCs hit $2.6 million, which is a 3.7% increase over the previous year. At the same time, CEOs at companies with $7 billion to $10 billion in revenue brought home four times the total median compensation of their chief lawyers.

Digging deeper into the pay stats, performance incentives accounted for the largest chunk of GC compensation in 2018. The median salary for GCs in the study was $565,000 while their performance incentives averaged $718,000, dwarfing the median stock award of $301,000.

As in earlier studies, in-house leaders in the health care sector take the award for having the highest median total compensation, which edged above $4 million in the latest report, up from about $3.9 million last year.

The tech and financial sectors followed closely behind with median total compensation of about $3.1 million. But GCs in the financial realm saw a 36% pay increase compared with 2017, when their median total compensation was $2.2 million.

At the same time, pay for GCs in the basic materials drifted back down to earth after leaping more than 27% from 2016 to 2017. In 2018, their year-over-year pay dropped by nearly 17%.

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