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Closing the Pay Gap: Brazilian Female Executives in Focus

Maria das Graças Foster became the first female CEO of Petrobras. (Agencia Senado)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Exame, a Brazilian business magazine, and the consulting company Hay Group commissioned a salary survey of over 4,300 executives at 233 Brazilian companies. The results indicated that while Brazilian women continue to occupy a minority of management roles, their salaries are catching up with their male counterparts.

Here is a selection of the findings:

  • Women represented only 14 percent of executives surveyed.
  • While 32 percent of male executives made over R$1 million (about $450,000), only 17 percent of women earned this amount.
  • In 2008, executive-level women made 26 percent less than their male counterparts. As of this year, women make only 17 percent less.
  • Women executives tend to be younger than their male counterparts—the average age of female execs is 44 years old, while for men it’s 48.
  • At multinational companies, 42 percent of female executives earn more than their male counterparts. Women who make less than men earn only 4 percent less on average.
  • At Brazilian companies, 33 percent of women earn more than their male counterparts. Women who earn less than male counterparts make about 6 percent less.
Learn about AS/COA's Second Annual Networking Event and Workshop for the Women's Hemispheric Network on October 11, which will feature top female executives.

Beyond pay, women’s representation in executive positions remains a challenge. Grant Thorton’s June 2013 report on women in senior management found that Brazilian women occupy around 23 percent of leadership roles—but that number decreased by 3 percent points from 2012 to 2013.

One of the problems with expanding female representation, Exame notes, is that executives tend to hire professionals that are like them, which can lead to male-dominated companies. Similarly, an August McKinsey survey found that 24 percent of Latin American executives believe a barrier to women executives is a lack of female role models. Consequently, women like Maria das Graças Foster, who became the first female CEO of Petrobras last year, may help pave the way: the number of female CEOs in Brazil rose from 3 to 14 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to Grant Thorton.

Exame also found another encouraging sign about women executives in Brazil: they’re starting to enter fields that used to be male-dominated.  In 2008, for example, around 7 percent of Brazilian women worked in tech. Now, that number stands at 12 percent. Similarly, women are moving out of traditionally female-dominated areas. In 2008, around 21 percent of women executives worked in human resources; in 2013, it’s now 12 percent, as they move to areas such as commercial and product development.