The heads of trade groups draw on a common set of skills to succeed. Among them: a deep knowledge of Washington’s lawmaking process, access to the capital’s power players and the ability to charm and cajole in equal measures.
Though if you’re a woman holding such a job, don’t expect to be paid the same as a man.
The average annual compensation of the women who lead four of the capital’s most politically active industry groups lags behind that of male peers by more than $1 million, according to data in tax filings compiled by Bloomberg. The female CEOs took home an average $1.43 million in 2010, compared with $2.48 million paid to the other 26 executives -- 57 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
“The skills needed to run trade organizations are basically the same,” says Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at GMI Ratings, a New York-based governance consulting firm. “There should be no differential between male and female CEO pay. There isn’t an explanation for it, except sexism.”
Washington’s women suffer a greater gender gap than that of their corporate counterparts. GMI’s most recent Female CEO Pay Survey examined salary data from 2,704 publicly traded corporations and found that on average, female CEOs earned 80 percent of what male CEOs made in annual earnings. In the general population, women earned about 72 cents to every dollar earned by men in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The top 30 trade associations were ranked on their lobby spending during the Obama administration. Those groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have spent $1.67 billion in Washington since 2009. The survey captured groups that spent more than $17.5 million influencing policy over that period.
The four women in the group of 30 -- Karen Ignagni at America’s Health Insurance Plans, Susan Neely at the American Beverage Association, Denise Bode at the American Wind Energy Association and Pamela Bailey at the Grocery Manufacturers Association -- earned an average of $729,495 in base salary, compared with the $1.07 million earned by men on the list.
For all 30 executives, average salary, including incentives and deferred compensation, totaled $2.34 million in the most recent filings, a 16 percent increase from the prior year.
“I am shocked that the gap is that large,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of Women Impacting Public Policy Inc., a nonprofit organization promoting female-owned businesses. “If we can’t resolve this bias, how are women ever going to have a seat at the economic table?”
The small number of women in the survey and the level of their average pay shows that “there’s discrimination that is real and has not disappeared,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Chicago-based employment consultant company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. “There is still a glass ceiling that makes it difficult to change the number of women who reach the top job in any meaningful way.”
Billy Tauzin, 68, a former Republican congressman from Louisiana, led all trade group heads with his $11.6 million compensation in his last year at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Ranked just behind him were Jack Gerard, 54, who earned $6.4 million at the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber’s Thomas Donohue, 73, who took home $4.75 million.
All four female trade CEOs have been prominent lobbyists during the Obama era, though only Bailey received compensation above the peer-group average for 2010.
“It’s still shocking every time you’re reminded of the incredible lack of pay equity between men and women and this is just one more indication that it transcends every sector,” said Chellie Pingree, a Democratic representative from Maine and the former CEO of Common Cause, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for campaign finance reform.
“I think women at the top think, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m making a million dollars, I have nothing to complain about,’ but then they realize that the next guy’s getting two million,” Pingree said. “I think that’s a psychology that happens with women.”
Ignagni, 58, and Bode, 57, promoted their industries’ interests as the president designed his health-care law and enacted a stimulus program that offered incentives for green energy projects.
Bailey’s Grocery Manufacturers Association and Neely’s American Beverage Association both oppose a congressional proposal for a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas to fight youth obesity. The levy is called “discriminatory” and “regressive” and “nothing more than a money grab” on the ABA’s “Sip and Savor” industry blog.
“They’ve put the kibosh on just about every effort” to institute the fee, said George Hacker, a senior policy adviser at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy organization that has lobbied in favor of the tax. “They’ve been very effective.”
Ignagni was among those who repeatedly visited the White House as President Barack Obama pushed Congress to overhaul health care, White House records show. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, visited eight times, meeting twice with Obama.
AHIP, whose members include Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., successfully lobbied against efforts to include a public insurance option to compete with the private companies that are members of her trade association.
Bailey, 63, led the female CEOs with a $2.8 million in salary, incentives and deferred compensation in 2010. She was followed by Ignagni who took in $1.49 million, Neely with $837,443 and Bode, whose compensation totaled $579,395.
Bailey’s 2010 compensation rose 10 percent from the year earlier, while Ignagni’s slumped 18 percent from 2009. In contrast, Chamber chief Donohue saw a 27 percent leap in pay.
Ginny Smith, spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers, declined to comment on salary levels. Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, also declined to comment.
Bode, who ranked 30th in both base salary and total compensation in the survey, declined to comment on her pay. She said her wind energy group’s senior management team is equally divided, with seven men and seven women.
“Women leading energy organizations of any type are in the minority,” Bode said in an e-mailed statement. “But the wind industry has done a good job of encouraging women to rise in the ranks.”
Kevin Keane, the senior vice president for policy and public affairs at the American Beverage Association, said its board went through a “marketplace review” and Neely, 55, was given a pay increase in 2011 in “seven figures,” he said. He declined to specify her current compensation.
The salary analysis was limited to trade organizations charged with representing the interests of industries, and excluded single companies or pressure groups backed by individual members, such as the National Rifle Association and the AARP. Salary figures were taken from Form 990 filings that nonprofit organizations are required to submit to the Internal Revenue Service which list their highest paid employees.
Twenty-six of the top 30 trade groups have completed their 2010 regulatory filings with the IRS. For the remaining four -- the American Bankers Association, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Managed Funds Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association -- Bloomberg analyzed 2008 and 2009 filings.
Rising in the Ranks
The boards of trade associations will have to change their behavior in order to attract the best talent, said John Engler, the current head of the Business Roundtable who previously led the National Association of Manufacturers.
“I think you’re seeing a very impressive array of women leaders that will continue to rise up,” said Engler, 63, a former Republican governor of Michigan. “You will not see association CEOs remain a bastion of male CEOs.”
Kasoff of WIPP says her members aren’t willing to wait for change.
‘We can refuse to support companies or trade associations that perpetuate this,” she said. “We’re going to build a strategy and we’re going to attack this.”