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Female U.S. corporate directors out-earn men: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - They may be a small minority in corporate boardrooms, but women directors typically earn more than men, a new U.S. study has found.

People are silhouetted at Canary Wharf business district in London May 1, 2007. They may be a small minority in corporate boardrooms, but women directors typically earn more than men, a new U.S. study has found. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Female directors in corporate America earned median compensation of $120,000, based on the most recently available pay data, compared with $104,375 for male board members, research group The Corporate Library said in its annual director pay report on Wednesday.

At the same time, the study said, women in corporate boardrooms are outnumbered eight to one.

“This makes being a director one of the few jobs in the U.S. economy where the pay differential is reversed,” between men and women, the study found.

The study found that overall, median total compensation for individual U.S. board members was just over $100,000, based on companies’ annual proxies filed through last month. The median increase in total disclosed compensation was about 12 percent compared with the year-earlier period, the study said.

The report looked at pay data for more than 25,000 directors at more than 3,200 companies.

The pay increases were driven in part by the addition of previously undisclosed forms of compensation this year, said study author Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate at the Corporate Library. New regulatory rules now require public companies to disclose the cost of perks, cash incentives and other elements of total pay for top executives as well as directors.

More than 80 directors earned more than $1 million in total compensation for a single board seat, according to the Portland, Maine-based governance researcher.

Director pay is typically far below what top corporate executives are awarded, though it has risen sharply in recent years as director oversight duties have increased. Activist shareholders, however, say that director pay does need to remain in check because the role is basically a part-time job.

The Corporate Library also found that directors who have titles such as lord and judge tend to earn more than other board members. Even the least well-compensated titled directors -- medical doctors -- earned a median total compensation of $105,181, above the median compensation for all directors, it said.

The study found that 1,968 directors in the study had a title of one kind or another, or less than 8 percent than the total director population. The study examined U.S. companies whose directors in some cases are European and hold titles.

“For governmental titles, judges are the highest earning directors, while among the more traditional titles, knights earn the most,” Hodgson said.

Reporting by Martha Graybow, editing by Dave Zimmerman