Women in Top Corporate Legal Roles Outearned Men in 2020

September 15, 2021


REDWOOD CITY, CA (September 15, 2021) — Women in the General Counsel position at the largest U.S. companies were paid more than their male counterparts in 2020, according to a new report from Equilar, General Counsel Pay Trends, featuring commentary from BarkerGilmore. Women in the GC role at Equilar 500 companies were awarded $3 million in total reported compensation at the median in 2020, in comparison to $2.7 million for men.

Women saw significant gains in 2019 and 2020 after a decrease in median total compensation from 2016 to 2018, totaling a 36.5% increase in the two most recent fiscal years. Median total compensation for men increased modestly in every year of the study, amounting to an 8% increase from 2016 to 2020.

“There is a higher level of turnover and a robust hiring market for GC in 2021, and interest in and competition for these positions have never been greater,” said John Gilmore, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at BarkerGilmore, an executive search firm, who provided independent commentary for the Equilar report.

“Those with a track record of leadership, business success, and sound relationships with the CEO and board are highest in demand, and diverse candidates have even greater leverage,” Gilmore said.

Women are also inching toward parity in the GC role at Equilar 500 companies, holding 36.3% of the top GC positions in 2020. This represents approximately a 50% increase in share from 2016, when more than three-quarters of GC positions were held by men. Notably, the percentage of women holding GC roles at the largest U.S. companies increased every year since 2016, with the largest gain occurring from 2018 to 2019.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • The GC is rising in the ranks. Since 2016, the number of GC reported as one of the highest-paid company employees in annual proxy statements has grown from 158 to 171 among Equilar 500 companies, an increase of 8.2%.

  • GC pay across the Equilar 500 grew by double digits over the past five years. Median total reported compensation for General Counsel increased 15.5% to reach $2.8 million in 2020, up from $2.4 million in 2016.

  • Communication services and technology led the way in GC pay. These sectors were the only industries to pay their GC more than $4 million at the median.

  • The top legal executive role in the basic materials and industrials sectors saw double-digit losses in median pay packages year over year.

Request a copy of the full report by filling out the form or by contacting Equilar directly.

Media Contacts

Amit Batish

Director, Content & Communications


Thought Leadership

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Thought Leadership

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