Women led eight of Washington’s 50 most politically active trade lobby groups and earned about $600,000 less than their male counterparts, according to salary data compiled by Bloomberg.
The female chief executive officers were paid an average of $1.31 million in 2011, compared with $1.93 million paid to the 42 male CEOs. That means they made about 68 cents for every dollar paid to a man -- a bigger salary divergence than the 72 cents women earned against every $1 paid to a man in the wider economy, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Washington is “the original boys’ club,” said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations for the American Association of University Women, a research group promoting female leadership. “Clearly there’s still a hurdle, a glass ceiling, a bias about leadership roles.”
Only one woman -- Pamela Bailey of the Grocery Manufacturers Association -- placed in the top 10 ranking of the best-paid industry lobby executives. Even so, her annual compensation lagged behind that of the highest earners in the Bloomberg Government survey, including Thomas Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute.
The salary figures show how discrepancies in opportunities and compensation exist even for the women operating at the highest levels of business, said employment consultant John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
“It seems like men and women would have equal lobbying ability -- I can’t see why there’d be any difference in pay,” Challenger said. “The most obvious answer is that it’s discrimination.”
Linda Lipsen, who heads the world’s largest association for trial lawyers, received the second-lowest salary among the 50 executives, taking home about $1.3 million less than the average for the group. Only Dean Wilkerson, executive director of the American College of Emergency Physicians, earned less.
“Women should make up at least half of this list, and I hope to see more female leaders in the near future,” Lipsen said in an e-mail.
The industry groups were ranked by the total amount spent lobbying in Washington during President Barack Obama’s first term, in a Bloomberg Government compilation of documents filed with the U.S. Senate. The 50 associations since 2009 have spent a cumulative $1.85 billion trying to influence legislation on issues including health care, energy independence and tax rates, the data showed.
The average total compensation of $1.83 million for the group of 50 includes base pay, bonuses and incentives and nontaxable benefits. Average base pay and bonuses jumped 5.5 percent to $1.35 million in 2011 from $1.28 million a year earlier. The figures reflect the organizations’ most recent Form 990 filings with the Internal Revenue Service.
Trade groups have turned to their allies on Capitol Hill since 2009 as a counterweight to the Obama administration, said Marcus Owens, a partner at Washington law firm Caplin & Drysdale.
“The perception is that the ear of the White House is not necessarily turned in their direction, so that means they have to re-double their efforts in Congress,” said Owens, who used to oversee nonprofits for the Internal Revenue Service. “The lobbyists in Washington have been on the receiving end of the fear that the Obama administration is going to do something to them.”
John Graham, CEO of the American Society of Association Executives, a group representing trade, philanthropic and professional associations, said lack of experience may be a drag on female salaries.
“A lot of women are new to the CEO suite, so they don’t necessarily have as much tenure and as much salary history as the men,” Graham said. Over time, “more and more women are moving into CEO spots,” he said.
The similar challenges faced by those holding top lobbying jobs means there’s little excuse for big salary gaps, said Maatz of the American Association of University Women.
“Whether they hire a man or a woman to be the CEO, they are going to be doing the same job,” she said. “Frankly, this pay gap is probably something that has followed these women throughout their careers.’
The Edison Electric Institute’s Kuhn, 66, who represents the interests of publicly traded electric utilities, topped the money rankings with total compensation of $6.81 million, a 70 percent jump in his pay from a year earlier.
Kuhn was followed by Jack Gerard, 55, of the American Petroleum Institute, who received $5.62 million in compensation, and Donohue, 74, head of the Chamber of Commerce, with a salary of $4.95 million.
Those salaries weren’t matched by the best-paid woman on the list: Bailey, 64, of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, who took home $2.91 million.
Bailey was followed among women executives by Dawn Sweeney, 53, at the National Restaurant Association, who received $2.2 million and Karen Ignagni, 59, of America’s Health Insurance Plans placing third among women with $1.73 million.
Bailey and Sweeney declined to comment through spokeswomen. Spokesmen for Ignagni America’s Health Insurance Plans didn’t respond to e-mails.
Those three were the only women on the list who earned more than $1 million. In comparison, 32 men made more than $1 million, more than half of whom took home more than $2 million.
Under $1 Million
The other women on the list ranged from Donna Harman, 53, of the American Forest and Paper Association, who received $992,534, to Linda Lipsen, 60, CEO of the American Association for Justice, with $437,274 in total compensation.
Kuhn’s 70 percent surge in salary was due to “a significant payout of a deferred compensation program that he had earned and accrued over many years,” Mary Miller, Edison’s chief administrative officer, said in an interview. Compensation for executives at the American Petroleum Institute is approved by its board of directors under the guidance of an outside consultant, said spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel.
The Chamber of Commerce, which along with its affiliate the Institute for Legal Reform, spent $477 million last year influencing lawmakers, defended Donohue’s salary.
“Tom Donohue leads the largest, most active, and most influential trade organization in the world and our board compensates him accordingly,” Blair Latoff Holmes, senior director of communications for the chamber, said in an e-mail.
Former lawmakers saw a large increase in pay from their time on Capitol Hill. Steve Largent, 58, a former Oklahoma Republican representative, made $2.7 million running CTIA-The Wireless Association, a Washington-based trade group for mobile phone companies.
That’s almost 16 times more than the $174,000 annual salary Largent would receive if he were still a serving member of Congress. Largent declined to comment about his salary through a spokeswoman.
John Engler, 64, the former Michigan Republican governor, earned $2.89 million as president of the Business Roundtable, about double the $1.44 million he received in his previous job as president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers in 2010.
“The Governor’s compensation is set by an independent committee made up of BRT board members, and is in line with his peers,” said Tita Freeman, a spokeswoman at the Business Roundtable.
The lobby and salary survey was limited to what the IRS calls 501(c)6 entities, which include business leagues, chambers of commerce, boards of trade and similar organizations.
Forty-two of the top 50 lobby groups have filed their 2011 regulatory forms with the IRS disclosing executive salaries for that year. For the remaining eight, some of which have non-calendar fiscal years, Bloomberg analyzed 2009 and 2010 salary filings. Those groups include the American Bankers Association, the Managed Funds Association, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the National Air Transportation Association, the Investment Company Institute, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Association for Justice.
Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center, said coverage of the gender gap may help end “good old-fashioned discrimination” on pay for women.
“I hope by putting this information out there that the boards of these associations will take a closer look because, when it comes down to it, you want talent at the top,” she said. “Underpaying women is not going to be the road to get there.”