While the average earnings for women still lag behind those of men, they're turning the tables in the most exclusive corporate club of all. A new report from Bloomberg News, the leading provider of business news worldwide, shows that women who head the nation's largest companies are earning substantially more than their male counterparts. Their average annual pay over the last few years? Just over $14 million dollars.
"That means women earned 40 percent more than men in 2009," says Alexis Leondis of Bloomberg.
What's more, in 2009 female CEOs got raises averaging nearly 30 percent, while male CEOs took pay cuts.
Carol Bartz, the CEO of Yahoo! has a pay package of $47.2 million.
Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld's take-home pay is $26.3 million.
And Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi Co., earns $15.8 million a year.
Despite those huge salaries, there is a huge caveat: There are still very few women who have made it to the corner office when compared to the number of men in those positions of corporate power. Only 16 companies listed in the S&P 500 are run by women.
One reason female bosses did so much better than women at lower levels is that CEO pay is transparent, being made public and available to the press. Some say no board would dare underpay a female CEO for fear of public backlash.
"There's 16 women making money and that's great," says Marie Wilson of The White House Project, a women's advocacy group. "I'm concerned about the vast majority of women who are now the majority of the workforce … it's kind of like the 16 supercorporate women are doing well. And that's a good sign – but it's not good enough."
In fact, women workers as a whole earn just 79 as much as men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Although these 16 women CEOs have climbed to the top rung of the corporate ladder, most women still struggle to get a solid foothold. Some studies have shown that women are far less aggressive in negotiations.
In one ABC News behavior lab experiment, volunteers were told they would be paid between $5 and $12 for their time participating in a study. Everyone was offered the minimum, but the men and women differed wildly in their reactions to the payment. More than half the men asked for more money, but only a third of the women bargained for more.
But still, even the women who have broken through the glass ceiling say that much has to change culturally in the business for women to reach parity at all levels. The hope is that the few who have made it to the top can start that change from the highest levels.
"If my job went out there with that kind of earning, I guess I'd want to make a real commitment to seeing every woman in my company paid fairly," says Wilson. "If I'm being paid like that I want all of you to be paid fairly."